While some struggle to overcome some of the challenges on their own, others find life to be more bearable when sharing their pains with those in the similar health status through the support groups.


However, until the latest decade, men and women were still conformed to the conservative tradition of concealing their status for fear of embarrassment and being rejected by the society.

But overtime, many have gained confidence to disclose their status as a majority of them attend sessions to collect Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs from public hospitals.

“It is not an easy thing to do to tell someone that you are HIV positive,” Wilfred Mose who has lived with the virus for the past six years told Xinhua on Friday.

“The society will always change their attitude and perception towards those infected and nobody wants to be rejected and therefore it takes courage to let someone else know about your status.”

The 66-year-old Mose is the chairperson of the 35-member Nijali (care for me) Self Help Group constituted of men and women diagnosed with HIV. The group was formed early this year.

The members from Bahati ward in Nakuru County, Rift Valley region not only get personal motivation to love themselves, care for themselves and live a normal life but also strive to improve their socio-economic status.
“It is a tough life as an infected person because many do not understand your needs and they tend to feel like you are a burden,” noted Mose.

Each environment is characterized with a particular kind of social exclusion which stigmatizes them and heavily weighs on their health, Mose observes.

When walking on the roads, neighbours refuse to greet them and warn any person against doing so.
While fetching water from the water kiosks, people keep a distance and others express fear of handling money given out by the infected. These actions, Mose says, hurt them deeply and throw them into depression.

“People hold back their hands when you stretch out to greet them. It feels bad. Extremely bad and you always wish to have someone to share your distress with,” said Mose.

The members of the group frequently met at the Bahati District Hospital for their ARVs and realized they shared a common need for support resulting in their coming together.

Now, whenever one is distressed or weak, the rest provide the reliable and loving support possible. They hold regular meetings based on the matters arising on daily account.

“If one of us is unwell, we obviously can’t wait to the end of the month to meet. We have to visit him or her. And if she or he does not have any food, we contribute and buy what meets our dietary needs,” he said.
For Bridgette Waithera, 44, the group has offered her a solid ground to root her life.

Waithera who was diagnosed with the virus in 2004 said finding people who share the same pain gives life a new meaning each and every day.

“Whenever I am unable to go on my own to collect my medicine, I request any available member to accompany me. We do not ignore one another. We all understand what we are going through,” she remarked.

The members have now invested in the local poultry and each of them is rearing a minimum of two chickens.
The group is practicing table banking and each makes a monthly contribution of 0.97 U.S. dollars, the least. They are saving to buy dairy goats for a supply of milk to boost their health and lengthen their lives.

Mose and Waithera are still concerned of the distress they go through as a result of the stigmatization.

“Some people treat you as an outcast. They forget that you are also a human being and deserve to be treated with love, respect and care,” said Mose.

The duo said the group offers them a platform to express their frustrations, encourage one another, pray for each other and discuss on ways to improve their lives.

Nakuru is among the regions in Kenya with the highest levels of infections. There are 1.6 million people in the developing nation living with HIV, out of which 61,598 are from Nakuru County according to the 2014 statistics from the National AIDS Control Council (NACC).

The infected should not pity themselves but accept the condition and focus on managing it to sustain a stress-free life, says Jacinta Wanyama, an independent social worker based in Nakuru County.

“They (HIV positive people) are special just like anybody else and they need to love themselves instead of worrying too much about what others are thinking about them,” said Wanyama.

She said the society is yet to fully embrace the HIV positive persons, calling for more action-oriented activities to end stigmatization and support them in every way to live longer.

Currently, NACC in collaboration with UNAIDS is running an anti-stigmatization campaign aimed at changing the attitude of Kenyans towards persons living with HIV/Aids. Enditem

Source: Xinhua


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