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The Price of Ignoring the Sexuality of Kenya’s HIV-Positive Youth

Teenagers who are known to be HIV positive are treated like social pariahs, often due to lack of information among their peers. Credit: Letuka Mahe/IPS

Teenagers who are known to be HIV positive are treated like social pariahs, often due to lack of information among their peers. Credit: Letuka Mahe/IPS

NAIROBI, Nov 29 2012 (IPS) - It all started with a fight, one that would change his life forever.

It was in that moment of fighting with another teenage boy that Cedric Owino from the sprawling Mathare slum, one of Kenya’s biggest informal settlements, accidentally discovered that he was HIV positive.

Until then it had been a secret his grandmother had kept from him – for 15 years.

“While we were fighting, the mother of the other boy started shouting that I might scratch her son and infect him with HIV,” Owino, 15, tells IPS.

Consequently, a bitter argument ensued between Owino and his grandmother, who is his guardian, since he is an orphan. She confirmed that he has been HIV positive since he was a baby.

“Disclosure is not easy,” Mwema Omollo, Owino’s grandmother, tells IPS. “If you tell your child, you fear that it will change how they live. People are still very much afraid of HIV. My daughter refused to take antiretroviral (ARV) drugs when she discovered that she was HIV positive. I didn’t want this to become Cedric’s fate too.”

Her daughter was afraid that if she did take ARVs, people in her community who dispensed the medication would realise her status.

Since he found out, Owino has twice attempted suicide.

“My family knew I was infected, why tell me that the drugs I take are for asthma, while they know it’s because I am HIV positive?” he asks. He dropped out of grade eight at the Young Stars Academy soon after discovering his status.

Owino is not the only teenager struggling to come to terms with his status. Anthony Andega, another HIV positive 15-year-old, also tried to commit suicide when he found out two years ago.

He cut himself with a knife. But because of the stigma surrounding the virus, people refused to come to his aid. A friend of Andega’s later told him that even though he had been bleeding profusely, people refused to touch or help him.

“No one wants to touch where you have touched. You become isolated,” Andega tells IPS. Not only that, but the news of his status spread.

“In this neighbourhood, we go to the same schools. If people know you have HIV, this information is spread all over school,” he says.

The Kenya Population Data Sheet says stigma towards adolescents and teenagers living with HIV is high, with “55 percent of adolescents interviewed indicating that they preferred that the HIV status of their family members be kept secret.”

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, of adults aged 15 to 64 years, an estimated 7.1 percent, or 1.4 million, are living with HIV in Kenya. Further, among youth aged 15 to 24 years, 3.8 percent are infected, rivalling older adults aged 50 to 64, whose prevalence is five percent.

Demonstrators against the suspension of Round 11 of Global Funding for Aids, TB and Malaria, earlier in the year. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Doctors Without Borders, which has worked in Mathare with caregivers to improve the rate of disclosure among families affected by HIV, reports that only two percent of family members disclose their status to each other.

It is an issue of concern. Ann Mburu, a nurse who works for Adolescents Count Today (ACT), a project targeting HIV positive teenagers or those who have been affected by HIV, says “the number of HIV positive adolescents is likely to increase as most adolescents practice sex with their peers without any knowledge of their status.”

“Since parents and guardians don’t easily disclose to older children who are infected, HIV/AIDS will remain a big blow to the community with increased stigmatisation and discrimination due to the secrecy,” she says

Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK) has rolled out ACT in Thika in Central Kenya, and in Eldoret and Nakuru in the Rift Valley region.

“Despite 22 percent of boys and 11 percent of girls having had sex by the age of 15, 60 percent of adolescents considered themselves not to be at risk of HIV infection,” explains Esther Muketo, programme manager at FHOK. National figures are unavailable.

Paediatrician Dr. Alice Muchemi has seen many teenagers grapple with their HIV status.

“Teenage years are often difficult, self-confidence is usually fragile. Rejection from the opposite sex is often viewed as a tragedy. Their bodies are also hungry to indulge in sex. But teenagers who are known to be HIV positive are treated like social pariahs, often due to lack of information among their peers,” Muchemi tells IPS.

Kenya’s National Guidelines for HIV Testing and Counselling permit health workers to inform children “who are pregnant, married, or sexually active” of their HIV status. But this does not always happen.

“Since sexually active children do not always disclose that they are having sex, and because it’s not expected that they are, they are also not told that they are HIV positive,” Muchemi explains.

Before discovering that he was HIV positive, Owino had been sexually active for a year and had only used a condom on one occasion.

“Just like most boys here, we have sex when an opportunity presents itself. I thought of HIV as a disease for grown-ups,” Owino justifies.

Now that he knows his status he has not attempted to contact his former partners. “Mathare is a big slum, I don’t know where these girls live now. Even if people know about my status, I am not going to talk about it,” he says.

According to Plan Kenya, which carried out a study among HIV positive adolescents aged 10 to 19 years in Nairobi and the Nyanza region, “most HIV positive adolescents are or intend to be involved in sexual relationships. More than four-fifths have been in a sexual relationship and more than two-thirds of these are still in a relationship.” Nyanza has the highest prevalence of HIV in Kenya, almost twice the national prevalence at 15.3 percent.

Paul Ndegwa, an HIV positive activist, says that while the government is succeeding in its fight against paediatric HIV, it is largely ignoring the needs of HIV positive teenagers. According to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, there has been a 40 percent reduction in new infections among children in Kenya.

“The problem is in the transition into adolescence and teenage years. You are dealing with young people who are at an age where they don’t communicate well. The needs of HIV positive teenagers are real and they are ignored just the same way the sexual and reproductive health needs of teens in general are ignored,” he tells IPS.

 
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  • Alicia

    I am from USA, I want to use this medium to testify of how i got cured from HIV AIDS. I contacted HIV from my husband, my husband died 2 years ago from this disease, my life was gradually coming to an end living with this deadly disease daily, i did all i could to get cured from this disease but all to no avail, until i saw a post on health forum about a spell caster who cure all kind of diseases including HIV AIDS, when i contact this healing spell doctor he helped me cast a healing spell and i got cured within 72hours (3days), I am back on my feet again. Contact this spell caster for any kind of disease via this email azizahealingtemple@gmail.com

  • Stacey Lee

    thank God for the wonderful healing spell power which Dr.Eze.malaca render to my life which oracle support, i was been diagnosed with HIV-AIDS over 7years now which has lead me to unemployment and loosing my relationship with my fiance after he heard that i am suffering from the VIRUS, i tried begging him to allow me stays with him, but he still insist on letting me out of his home, until a friend of mine on Facebook from SOUTH AFRICA told me more about Dr.Eze.malaca the great healer, that he is going to help restore and healed my diseased with his powerful healing spell, she send me his address and i quickly contacted him, and he replied to after 30mins of my message that my disease is a little and minor disease, that he will solved the disease immediately only if i can accept all he requested from, i told him yes, because truly i know that ” HIV-AIDS IS A WICKED AND DEADLY DISEASE I EVER KNOWS “. so i did all he want from me and surprisingly on Friday last week Dr.Eze.Malaca called me that my problems is solved that i should hurry up to the hospital for a checkup, which i truly really did, i confirm from my doctor that i am now NEGATIVE AND NOT LONG +, I was still surprise and went to another place for the checkup,and it was still the same result that i am NEGATIVE.I jump up and was crying heavily because truly the disease drive a lot of things away from my life, my friends, my cousin, my fiance and relatives, but now since i was confirm NEGATIVE- my lost friends and fiance has been back to me begging for forgiveness, i have forgiven them and now we are now best of friend. again i will say to Dr.malaca that he is blessed and may the almighty God which i serve raise him and his family to the higher level in life. Thank and god bless. Please email Dr.eze.malaca for healing and solution now at Eze.malacaspelltemple@yahoo.com or contact his phone number +2348163395533 he will put a smile on you again.

  • Stacey Lee

    thank God for the wonderful healing spell power which Dr.Eze.malaca render to my life which oracle support, i was been diagnosed with HIV-AIDS over 7years now which has lead me to unemployment and loosing my relationship with my fiance after he heard that i am suffering from the VIRUS, i tried begging him to allow me stays with him, but he still insist on letting me out of his home, until a friend of mine on Facebook from SOUTH AFRICA told me more about Dr.Eze.malaca the great healer, that he is going to help restore and healed my diseased with his powerful healing spell, she send me his address and i quickly contacted him, and he replied to after 30mins of my message that my disease is a little and minor disease, that he will solved the disease immediately only if i can accept all he requested from, i told him yes, because truly i know that ” HIV-AIDS IS A WICKED AND DEADLY DISEASE I EVER KNOWS “. so i did all he want from me and surprisingly on Friday last week Dr.Eze.Malaca called me that my problems is solved that i should hurry up to the hospital for a checkup, which i truly really did, i confirm from my doctor that i am now NEGATIVE AND NOT LONG +, I was still surprise and went to another place for the checkup,and it was still the same result that i am NEGATIVE.I jump up and was crying heavily because truly the disease drive a lot of things away from my life, my friends, my cousin, my fiance and relatives, but now since i was confirm NEGATIVE- my lost friends and fiance has been back to me begging for forgiveness, i have forgiven them and now we are now best of friend. again i will say to Dr.malaca that he is blessed and may the almighty God which i serve raise him and his family to the higher level in life. Thank and god bless. Please email Dr.eze.malaca for healing and solution now at Eze.malacaspelltemple@yahoo.com or contact his phone number +2348163395533 he will put a smile on you again…..

  • jane

    I am Ella James From USA You must be very careful here,I have lost over $25,000 dollars to different people hoping my hiv illness will be gone,I try and try but they all fail me,I got affected with this sickness 2 years ago when I went to Uganda and since then life has mean nothing to me I have taken thousands of drugs but my situation still remain positive,Until I saw on a site how Mama Anita Help cure HIV for one south Africa lady so I decide to give the last try.When I contact this woman Mama Anita she told me all i will do is pay $620 so he can arrange me a native cream and liquid substance to bath for 3 days,But at first I was scared because of my past experience.Then the next day I have a feelings that I should give her a try and I actually send her the money and I got the package and did as she said then the 4th day i went to check my status and the doctor said I am negative I was short of joy and could not believe it..i did the same text again and still negative Now I am free from HIV please if you are out there looking for real HIV cure then Mama anita is the one because many here are nothing but scam her email contact is…..(mamaanitahivcurecenter@gmail.com)…Ella Jane

  • John Park

    I want to share this testimony to every one on this site. Am Rose Ricado
    this is how i was helped and cured with hiv and cancer by this great
    man of spirit called Dralabokun. One day i was reading a blog when i
    come across a short comment saying about how this man cured him from hiv
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    and his number then i quickly called him for a help to cure me from hiv
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    man and i have never done this before so he told me not to be scared
    then i obey him. Also, i was so happy of what i read from a blog site on
    how am going to be cured with this, i make all the requirement done by
    me now am so happy with hiv negative not longer positive also with the
    cancer that was in me was gone and to be truthful, i don’t no how the
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    he will help you for good and have a happy life with your family,

  • Jude

    I was been suffering hardship from HIV/AIDS since 9yrs now, and i happen to have 2 kids for my husband, and now we cannot proceed to have another kids all because of my disease and now i have do all what a human like i and my husband can do just to get my disease healed, i have went to several places to seek for help not even one person could ever help, until i melt a comment on the daily news paper that was commented by Miss Marilyn about how this powerful traditional doctor help her get cured of the disease (HIV-AIDS) ” my fellow beloved” i firstly taught having a help from a spiritual traditional healer was a wrong idea, but i think of these, will i continue to stress on these disease all day when i have someone to help me save my life?” so i gather all my faiths and put in all interest to contact him through his Email address at hivcurecenter@gmail.com , so after i have mailed him of helping get my disease cured, i respond to me fast as possible that i should not be afraid, that he is a truthful and powerful doctor which i firstly claimed him to be. So after all set has been done, he promise me that i will be healed but on a condition that i provide him some items and obeyed all his oracle said. I did all by accepting his oracolous fact and only to see that the following week Dr ozander mail me on my mail box that my work is successfully done with his powers, i was first shocked and later arise to be the happiest woman on earth after i have concluded my final test on the hospital by my doctor that i am now HIV- Negative. My papers for check are with me and now i am happy and glad for his miraculous help and power. With these i must to everyone who might seek for any help, either for HIV cure or much more to contact him now at these following email now,hivcurecenter@gmail.com or call him on +234811543538

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