Ahenda Anjichi is back again, this time on a mission. She is out to create awareness on this long standing challenge of HIV and AIDs. The first time I read this post I couldn’t help acknowledging the weight of her words. It is my hope that this message spreads far and wide. If you are not infected, you must be affected. I take this opportunity to launch the first awareness campaign on this blog. Let’s call it A Minute of Silence. Thank you Ahenda.
“My feet sort of just glided haphazardly from the seat of my car, ankles angrily exerting force onto the tarmacked parking as I made my way to the side entrance of the white building. So many thoughts were racing through my mind, why am I even still walking? I couldn’t feel the ground but I felt myself moving. There was a buzz of activity around me. A pregnant woman who just looked void of all human energy was standing by the main entrance, her husband/boyfriend/friend/baby daddy hunched over her attentively…I whizzed past them, smelt her cheap perfume and grimaced.
My feet pounded on relentlessly, I wanted to slower my pace but I guess after being up since 3 AM and having thought about this all night, I was here. Some unnatural forces were pushing my body, against my will to the first floor.
A gust of hot air hit me as I emerged into the semi-packed waiting area. I sat down on the plastic covered seats, not quite sure what to do or how to do it-my thoughts were louder than the baby wailing in its mother’s arms next to me and I only heard a whisper next to me when the white cladded receptionist/nurse tapped my shoulder and repeated her question five times, obviously irritated by my absent-mindedness. I nodded.
“Yes” was the choked reply.
Five minutes later, I was half walking behind her and half running out the door, my body feeling like a 5 ton truck and my heart pounding against my ribcage.
‘What the hell am I doing here?‘
She led me into a tiny room, at the end of the hall and all of a sudden my heart stopped beating, my feet refused to move and I stared in blank wonder at the white walls and statistic charts adorning the walls.
I was offered a seat stood there as she rambled on, talking nonsense because I wanted to forget I was there.
10 minutes later,
Time sort of stopped.
My head was spinning so fast, I felt the white walls turning 360 degrees…i had developed malaria: aching joints, fever, hallucinations, and shortness of breath and one hell of a headache…
It’s only when I felt a slap on my face and someone screaming [the fake name I had jotted on the dotted line on that yellow single sheet of paper] and telling me to calm down, that I realized the throbbing headache was actually my heart sinking and the aching joints were as a result of my hitting the floor and table, banging my head against the surface of the floor and my chorus of “OH NO’S!!!” made the hallucinations.
It was like a freaking out-of-body experience! I was watching myself act out this role in a movie and it was not actually happening and I’m not that crazy girl reeling on the floor, bringing attention to herself in that small, white walled room with arms flailing all over and white lab coats straining to pin down my struggling and jerking limbs.
I looked up through my tears and glanced back at the two ugly red lines, which in just FIFTEEN MINUTES had managed to shatter my 24 years of living, by a simple prick to my index finger and small talk of living positively.
In FIFTEEN MINUTES all the people who saw me walking down the hall would remember my draught stricken face and my tear stained cheeks and how concerned the counselor was as she led me back to my car, whispering words of encouragement in my ear that seemed to evaporate into whims of air the minute they left her lips because they didn’t register in my mind, neither did they make any sense-she could have been talking Greek for all I cared.
The world around me was like a bad dream and I was snow white and those two red lines were the evil step mother that had turned my world into gloom.
There was a slow buzzing in my ears and I found myself hunched over the low hedge, violently hurling out the remaining gooey lumps of my breakfast, constantly jerking like I was in an epileptic fit as if to drain every grain of the disease from my system.
I was in a pained trance and I could still feel the warm tears cutting irregular streams down my face.
I could swear that my heart had stopped beating and the quick breathes escaping my nostrils and mouth were my life’s essence seeping out into the noisy world and nobody noticed my frame, slouched next to my car, fingers digging into the tarmac and my arms hugging the front left wheel, hopelessly wishing that I was that cold inanimate object that proudly owns no emotion.
At that very moment, I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole, because all the stares and glances had me naked and vulnerable and I felt like “HIV POSITIVE” was plastered on my forehead.
I had drove into the hospital just FIFTEEN MINUTES earlier and nobody knew me; now I was just but one of the statistics.
DID YOU KNOW??
- Kenya is home to one of the world’s harshest HIV and AIDS epidemics.
- An estimated 1.5 million people are living with HIV; around 1.2 million children have been orphaned by AIDS; and in 2009 80,000 people died from AIDS related illnesses.
- Kenya’s HIV prevalence peaked during 2000 and, according to the latest figures, has dramatically reduced to around 6.3 percent.
- This decline is thought to be partially due to an increase in education and awareness, and high death rates.
- Many people in Kenya are still not being reached with HIV prevention and treatment services. Only 1 in 3 children needing treatment are receiving it.
This demonstrates Kenya still has a long way to go in providing universal access to HIV treatment, prevention and care.
- Kenya’s HIV epidemic has been categorised as generalised – meaning that HIV affects all sectors of the population.
- HIV prevalence is higher amongst specific groups and tends to differ according to location, gender and age.
- Various studies have revealed high HIV prevalence amongst a number of key affected groups, including sex workers, injecting drug users (IDUs), men who have sex with men (MSM), truck drivers and cross-border mobile populations.
Some of these groups are marginalised within society – for example, homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Therefore these groups are difficult to reach with HIV prevention, treatment and care, and the extent to which HIV is affecting these groups has not been fully explored. Up to 33% of new infections in 2008 were within these ‘most at risk populations’
- In 2008, an estimated 3.8 percent of new HIV infections were among IDUs and in the capital, Nairobi, 5.8 percent of new infections were among IDUs.
Laws prohibiting harm reduction services, such as needle and syringe exchanges, significantly hinder the prevention of new infections among IDUs.27 HIV infections are easily prevented in healthcare settings, nevertheless, 2.5 percent of new HIV infections occurred in health facilities during 2008 in Kenya.
- Women are disproportionally affected by HIV. In 2008/09 HIV prevalence among women was twice as high as that for men at 8% and 4.3% respectively.
This disparity is even greater in young women aged 15-24 who are four times more likely to become infected with HIV than men of the same age.
Kenyan women experience high rates of violent sexual contact, which is thought to contribute to the higher prevalence of HIV. In a 2003 nationwide survey, almost half of women reported having experienced violence and one in four women aged between 12 and 24 had lost their virginity by force
- Adult HIV prevalence is greater in urban areas (8.4 percent) than rural areas (6.7 percent) of Kenya. However, as around 75 percent of people in Kenya live in rural areas, the total number of people living with HIV is higher in rural settings (1 million adults) than urban settings (0.4 million adults)
Those statistics were as of 2008/2009.
Imagine how the situation is at this moment.
I did a random survey in a mat this morning, asking how many people riding with me to town had ever had an HIV test done.
I was sitted just behind the “kange’s”seat.
Keep in mind that the mat was full.
I managed to talk to the “kange”, the guy behind me, the passengers sitted on the double seats across from me and two guys alighting the mat, and with the Kenyan spirit of “udaku”, the answers chorused around me in the mat.
Out of 14, only 5 had “I have been tested” answers.
Now spread that out across all the mats in the traffic on Msa road at 7.45 AM at the Nyayo round-a-bout inter-section this morning.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT.
By Michael Ngigi
Laughter doesn’t necessarily mean someone is happy. A serious face doesn’t necessarily mean that one lacks humor. A crooked leg does not necessarily mean one cannot run. Neither does a colorful snake mean it does not strike. Why then, is Nelly is crying as she walks towards the alter on her wedding day? One would easily say it is because she is overjoyed that the day has finally come. She looks gorgeous in that ivory gown. Delicate and surreal. This day looks like a dream. The little girls look pretty too as they throw confetti on the bride and her guardians. Every single woman is jealous. The men are hiding their faces and it is evident that this bar has been raised a bit too high. The man who is about to marry this beautiful woman has scored a high ten.
Nelly is crying because she is about to die. She knows it but she chooses to walk on.
Nelly and Kim had been engaged for two years. She’d met him at her friend’s wedding about five years earlier. After talking for a few minutes she decided she wanted to know him more. He was interesting and funny. Kim had a way of making her feel special. It was no surprise when he proposed one evening in the middle of a highway. He was arrested for obstructing traffic, but he had already made his point. Nelly was blown away by his courage and she said yes. After that, they couldn’t stay apart. They started planning for the wedding immediately.
Days flew by first and during the last two weeks these two gave each other space to bid farewell to the single-hood. Kim went first, to his ‘drink’ with the boys. That night, he didn’t pick her calls neither did he answer her messages. Only the next day did he show up with yellow flowers with a note to say how sorry he was. He claimed his phone ran out of units and battery charge. The event was quickly forgotten. After all, no one wants to fight with their fiancé a few days before their wedding.
Then it was Nelly’s turn to attend her own bridal shower. Kim was having a headache and preferred to stay home. So Nelly made sure she made him some food and packed it in a dish so he could warm it when he woke up. She also left him some pills and drinking water on the bedside. She had offered to stay home and nurse him that evening but he would hear none of it. It was her day, he said. He wanted her to be in the company of her best friends. She felt sad to leave him but it looked like he’d be okay. She kissed him goodbye and drove off to meet the girls.
At the bridal shower, Nelly was treated to a hearty applause and tasty cocktails. She was thankful that they’d stood by her most of her life and what’s more, they had finally approved her man. Almost every girlfriend she had was present at the party. What would life be without friends? She was enjoying herself until her friends decided to throw her a surprise. Out of nowhere, there appeared two male strippers. She hadn’t seen this one coming. In the confusion that ensued, the strippers undressed and were completely naked. The women went into a frenzy like canines baying for blood. Nelly was stunned beyond words. She picked up her purse and ran out to her car. This was not who she was and for a moment, her best friends were her worst enemies. She cried and felt guilty as she drove home in the rain that night. She wasn’t about to mess her relationship by participating in what seemed like the beginning of an orgy.
When she got home, the lights in the living room had been turned off. She took off her shoes and coat as she headed towards the bedroom. She opened the door slowly as she didn’t want to wake Kim up. Then she saw something that made her knees turn to jelly. There on her bed, lay a naked Kim in the middle of two equally naked women who were busy arousing him. It was obvious that they’d been having sex. The smell was distinctive. Still trembling, Nelly slowly shut the door and and ran out of the house. The next morning she came back and acted as if nothing had happened. Kim acted extra happy to see her and wanted to know all the details about the party. She wanted to cry but what to do? A wedding is a girl’s ultimate dream.
Nelly cried through out her wedding day. She hated the way her world had changed. Surprisingly, Kim turned out to be a good husband. He was caring and always near. He brought her gifts and supported her ambitions. At some point, Nelly even forgot the ‘incident’. Everything had finally worked for good. She was doing well in her career and marriage felt like the best situation to be in. Bliss.
Six years later, Kim got very sick and died. The doctor said it was meningitis. As Nelly tried to come into terms with his death, she got more confused and weary. Something inside her kept telling her to probe deeper. Memories of that fateful night came flooding back and she decided to confront the doctor.
Kim died of AIDs. Nelly has HIV. Kim had kept it from her all along. She had seen the signs but she chose to ignore. Now the wedding is over, only the end awaits her.
If you see a sign. Take it seriously.
I shed tears for the infected and affected.