March 24, 2011
They are shunned by relatives but they also see it as their responsibility to minimize spread of the disease. People living with HIV and AIDS in Kenya are more and more marrying among themselves to guard against stigma and as a way of keep the lid of the virus shut within their population.
I decided to marry my fellow HIV positive mate not just to build a practical base for dealing with the illness, but also to help control the spread of infection,” said John Mutua. Mutua and Mueni â€“ an HIV-positive couple made the decision to marry as a result of enduring stigma and discrimination attached to HIV and AIDS in Kenya.
Both met through a support group in Machakos District General Hospital where they work as community health workers. Mutua suffered stigma right from the day he had gone to the hospital for testing. He was met by the doctor who had result papers in his hands and threw them to his face saying; here, take your AIDS and go cook with it”
Back at home, his parents disowned him when he told them about the news. “I felt desperately lonely and needed a companion to live with and enjoy the last few years of my life,” said 40-year-old Mutua, a HIV medication defaulter tracer who got HIV due to his irresponsible behaviors.
His wife Mary Mueni tested HIV positive in 2004 when she went for a medical check-up at Kikoshep -a community Health organization that offered Voluntary Counseling and Testing( VCT)] to confirm her health.
She got the virus from her first marriage. Her first husband died in 2000. Mueni had not learned that her husband had died of AIDS-related illnesses until she attended studies on home based care. She learned about the signs and symptoms of HIV and AIDS and remembered that her late husband had such like symptoms and concluded that he might have died of HIV.
“I felt cheated and very depressed and even wanted to commit suicide after my husband died but I thought deeply about my children’s lives and mine too. I decided to marry again and work for the widows whose husbands had died of AIDS,” Mueni said.
Her agony worsened when news about her status got out. Not only did Mueni loose her former job where she worked as a school teacher but also was chased away from her
former married home back to her matrimonial home with her children. But this is not unique to Mueni. Thanks to the government, there are noted successes against stigma and discrimination. “Since my late husband died, I have been approached by so many men requesting for either marriage or friendship proposal but turned them down because I knew my status and don’t like to see HIV positive persons infecting others,” says Mueni.
The two are now planning to formalize their marriage by holding a wedding by end this year to put to an end the many proposals she receives from men. Mutua and Mueni now live happily and help each other adhere to medication.
They have agreed to be taking their medication at the same time to help encourage each other. 1.4 million people live with HIV in Kenya. In 2010, HIV prevalent rate among men was 5.5%, and 8.8 % among women aged 15-49 (KAIS, 2009) â€“ a disparity which
may be attributed to the greater stigma attached to women with HIV which often prevents them doing anything that might bring attention to their condition. Note: (Names changed to protect person’s identity.)
Source: AFRICA SCIENCE NEWS SERVICE