As Kenya today joins the world to mark the World HIV/AIDS day, a cross section of people living with HIV/AIDS have raised various concerns impacting management of the scourge.
They include lack of sufficient condoms ahead of the festive season and inadequate supply of ARV’s that has negatively affected their health.
A 56-year-old woman (name withheld) from Kopsiro Sub county in Mt. Elgon who works at a health facility says that she contracted HIV from her husband after he inherited a widow in the village.
She spoke to journalists in Bungoma on Thursday and said that she has lived with HIV for the last 12 years.
According to her, the husband slept with the inherited widow whose husband had died of HIV.
“I appeal to men out there who rush to inherit widows to be careful and use protection as you may end up infecting your wife back home,” she said.
In her case, she says that she requested her husband to use a condom but he said no resulting to her current HIV status.
She says that while at the facility, she encourages pregnant mothers to undergo HIV testing to know their status to protect them from transmitting HIV to the new born babies during birth.
She also encourages expectant mothers to visit health facilities for the antenatal care visits (ANC) and at the same time counsels teenagers who are sexually active to use condoms or abstain.
“I have lived with HIV for 12 years and it’s not a walk in the park, we want a healthy Kenya,” she said.
She called on people living with HIV to strictly follow the doctor’s prescriptions while on ARVs so that they stay healthy and live a happy life.
“Having HIV is not a death penalty, some got it unknowingly and it can infect anybody, it is not that when you have HIV you are a bad influence in the community,” she said.
She said that all her children have tested negative.
She decried discrimination and stigma and said it was the reason most people don’t own up for testing.
Bungoma County HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) coordinator. Kennedy Bomji, said that the county has 30, 644 HIV confirmed cases.
He added that infections this year only stand at 1000 cases which is a worrying trend with HIV infections from mother to child standing at nine per cent.
Bomji attributes the high rate of infections to the triple threat of gender based violence, teenage pregnancies and female genital mutilation.
He says that in Bungoma, Kanduyi Constituency is the leading in the HIV/AIDS prevalence because it is a cosmopolitan area followed by Webuye West Constituency.
Bomji also decried low use of condoms in Bungoma County saying that it is a major threat to the spread of HIV. He said plans are underway to increase distribution of the same.
“If young girls are exposed to early sex with older men they risk getting both STI’s, HIV and teenage pregnancy,” he said.
“Having HIV doesn’t mean that your life has ended, look for us so that you can be guided and encouraged,” Bomji said.
By Roseland Lumwamu