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.