Despite the numerous HIV interventions, new infections are driven by the high number of people living with the condition which is currently estimated to be 1.4 million Kenyans. Statistics shows that heterosexual couples in steady relationships account for 44.1 per cent of new infections compared to 20.2 per cent among people in casual relationships. Sex workers and their clients report 14.1 per cent of new infections, whereas drug users are responsible for 3.8 per cent. Men who have sex with men were also identified as a risk group at 15.2 per cent. Kenya reports 91,000 deaths annually from HIV related complications
Jessica, not her real name, is a mother of four living with HIV. She does not have a stable source of income but works as a saloonist on call and commission. She supplements her income by working as a sex Worker in the local pubs and chang’aa dens in Rongai. She has a steady boyfriend who pays her rent and doesn’t know of her seropositive status. He has threatened to leave her if he finds out that she is living with the condition. She is on ARVs which she hides from her boyfriend and has not disclosed her status to him. Jessica and her boyfriend always practice safe sex and she clearly understands the importance of having safe and protected sex. However, despite her knowledge she does not always have protected sex and as a result she is now pregnant with her fifth child whose father is a mystery even to herself.
According to her, men pay more for sex without a condom and pay less for protected sex. She takes alcohol occassionaly and she plans to keep her pregnancy and has even joined PMTCT (prevention of Mother to Child Transmission) Clinic.
Jessica is not alone in her plight and some of her peers have resulted to having backdoor abortions. She admits she knows of the risks involved, at one time she was on a mission to spread the condition to as many people as possible, but changed her mind when she was empowered about the condition and issues related to it. She claims poverty is what pushes her into doing what she does.
“Taking care of four children all of school going age is not a cup of tea,” she quips,” and as a mother there is nothing you cannot do for the sake of your children”
“I want to stop, but if I do, what will happen to my children?”
Reducing the infection rate could lower the prevalence rates drastically. These can be done if more efforts are put forward to empower people socio-economically as poverty is one of the factors that fuels the spread of the epidemic. Women should also be familiarized on bargaining power techniques when it comes to using condoms not only as a preventive method against STIs and HIV but also as a form of family planning.
As they say prevention is better than cure and despite the fact that HIV can now be managed, still we have a responsibilty to ourselves and those close to us to ensure that we don’t necessarily infect and re-infect others. Remember it is as easy as ABC; Abstain if you cannot then, Be Faithful, if still this is a bit difficult then, CONDOMIZE!