In the old days, HIV was considered as a nightmare, an abomination and a curse from hell. In modern day society, however, it is just a disease like any other.
In Nakuru, this is not an exception. HIV has affected the young and old, plump and skinny, male and female, tall and short, fathers and mothers, boys and girls. Contacting the disease is as easy as eating a pie but it can still be avoided. It all depends on how one protects herself or himself and how they take care of their bodies.
Working with the Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance (KMYA), I get the opportunity to interact with people living with HIV (PLHIV) especially women who are mothers as well as those who are expectant. They share a lot of stories, experiences and challenges they face. Some of them look very healthy and you wouldn’t imagine even for a second that they are infected.
Nakuru is proud to have many health facilities that offer information and medication for those affected. In these facilities, lectures, training, open forum questions sessions and even conversations take place aiming at inculcating knowledge and information. This is of key importance to these people enabling them to lead a healthy lifestyle.
This information is also important for the reactive mothers to give birth to non-reactive babies, financial empowerment of PLHIV through support groups and most importantly fighting HIV in our society.
Paramountly, in regards to HIV, disclosure is the very first step of healing. This raises the question, “what is Disclosure?”
Disclosure is the process of revealing something to someone and in this case, it is when one reveals his or her HIV status to their partners, families or close friends. The act of overcoming fear and disclosing enables one to relieve the stress they are going through.
Not only does this relieve stress but when people know exactly what one is actually suffering from, he or she is given support and encouragement they need to surpass the whole idea that they are reactive.
KMYA works hand in hand with facilities around to ensure that support groups are strengthened. The fact that people suffering from a similar condition come together in a nutshell gives them morale to realize that an individual is not alone. Like I mentioned earlier, PLHIV get financial empowerment through support groups. In addition, they also acquire knowledge about new diseases they may be susceptible to such as the opportunistic diseases.
We also have health talks which are always conducted within the facilities. The underlying priority of the talks is to teach PMTCT mothers about breastfeeding, drug adherence, sex control methods, and prevention of mother to child transmission. They are also taught about outbreak of diseases like for instance the issue of cholera outbreak.
For each PLHIV, every day is a learning day but only when they attend health talks and support groups meetings. KMYA has never been left behind as its members with the help of community health volunteers attend all meetings and makes sure that every single mother partakes what is asked of her.
Clients are also visited regularly by KMYA staff and CHVs with the visits aimed at encouraging them, living their situation for the moment, acts of kindness are shown in special cases for example when a client has no feed she or he is provided with. It helps put a big smile on these beautiful amazing people.
As expected there are challenges handling PMTCT, PLHIV people. Stigmatization is the number one challenge where they hide or shy away from the society since at times it is very harsh.
Some of these people are very stubborn to make the necessary steps towards dealing with their condition, and there is also the issue of alcohol which has become very rampant in Nakuru where they take it when taking drugs. For some of them, they feel they shouldn’t die alone hence transmitting the virus through sex majorly and of course through other modes of transmission.
As I conclude, it would be mean not to acknowledge the fact that the Kenya Red Cross Society, KMYA, and health facilities have made a great impact on the society as far as HIV is concerned. Through the programe a lot of people’s lives have changed positively. PLHIVs now adhere to drugs appropriately, they have a wide range of knowledge about transmission and HIV itself.
Non-reactive babies are born every other day, mothers can now breastfeed without infecting their children and so it is crucial to boldly say that all these organizations have played a praiseworthy role.