Novembre 28, 2015

A too simple story

A too simple story

According to the 2014 National Aids Control Council, in Kenya, 21 per cent of those living with HIV are youth between ages 15-24. In 2010, when John Kyalo, now a thespian with Kibera vision, were proved to be positive, he was just 16.


‘When my classmates and I were done with our Primary school exams, we were already in a partying mood. I asked my girlfriend for a dance and there I propositioned her. Much to my delight, she agreed. So I got us a friend of mine’s room for the night,’ he recalled.


While reports claim that knowledge about HIV among young people in Kenya is low, John admitted that he was not entirely ignorant.


In school, we had had several HIV talks but they were all so boring. None of us paid any attention to them. Perhaps if they have had been dramatized, we would have had more interest,’ John joked retrospectively.


It was only a few weeks after his sexual debut, while strolling about the neighborhood of Kibera that he consented to an invitation to take a HIV test at an African Medical Research and Foundation (AMREF) facility.


‘My friends and I were interested in taking a HIV test. All the friends of mine got their results back but I got a paper with a phone number scribbled on it. I was advised to hand it over to my mother,’ he said.


Doctors wanted to allow his mother some time to disclose the news to him. For this reason, they told him that he had Anemia, sending him away with Septrines, which he did not bother to take. It was only a matter of time before the doctors had to take charge of the narrative, delivering the hard truth of his condition and the importance of the drugs. This sent John into a phase of denial.


We’ve seen young people experiencing depression and withdrawal. Some even display episodes of anger and refuse treatment, while going ahead to put others at risk,’ Nurse Caroline Thuranira said.


‘The day I learnt of my HIV positive status, I confronted my girlfriend and she came clean. She apologized for not disclosing her status to me. As I went home, I thought everyone else knew, too. I did not ever want to get out of my house,’ John recalled.For days, he stayed home. When the moment of starting the secondary school came, he opted for a boarding school far away from home. ‘I took with me enough dosage for the three-month-long term. As a new student, I trusted no one. Not even my patron. So, I woke up as early as 5 am to down my morning dose; before anyone else was awake. After lunch, I hid myself to take the pills…and that was the order of the day,’ he told A-id.


By the second term, he had made way into the Hand ball team, Drama, Scouts and environmental clubs. The beginning of his undoing. A little bit of snooping around by his ‘friends’ meant that his secret was not safe anymore. This meant marginalization and exclusion. The Teachers at the school put little of effort into removing the traces of the stigma. John felt that he could not stay in that school anymore. He convinced his mother to be transferred to a day school. During holidays, he started joining a youth friendly Amref facility for counsel and training. Few months ago, John sat for his secondary school exams. The new school were supportive. In the meanwhile, doctors found him much healthier.


Now, John is taking the necessary supplements. He lives a fulfilling life through his theatre group, while getting endearing support from his mother and close friends. John is dating again, too. But he took the time to disclose his status to his lady- a courtesy he hoped would have been extended to him, five years ago.

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About Njeri Kihang’ah-Chege

Njeri Kihang’ah-Chege

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