Let’s Go Red
This World Aids Day the theme is “HIVNOTRETRO” so let’s revisit this viral disease that has consumed the lives of millions.
Some facts from the World Health Organization:
Infection results in the progressive deterioration of the immune system, breaking down the body’s ability to fend off some infections and other diseases. AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome) refers to the most advanced stages of HIV infection, defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or related cancers.
HIV can be transmitted through:
Unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex with an infected person;
Transfusions of contaminated blood;
The sharing of contaminated needles, syringes or other sharp instruments;
The transmission between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
Globally, an estimated 36.7 million (34.0–39.8 million) people were living with HIV in 2015, and 1.8 million (1.5–2.0 million) of these were children.
From the UNAIDS most recent report of 2016:
The latest UNAIDS data, covering 160 countries, demonstrate both the enormous
gains already made and what can be achieved in the coming years through a
Fast-Track approach. In just the last two years the number of people living with
HIV on antiretroviral therapy has increased by about a third, reaching 17.0 million people—2 million more than the 15 million by 2015 target set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2011. Since the first global treatment target was set in 2003, annual AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 43%. In the world’s most affected region, eastern and southern Africa, the number of people on treatment has more than doubled since 2010, reaching nearly 10.3 million people. AIDS related deaths in the region have decreased by 36% since 2010.
Let’s come closer to home, and these are the facts:
The theme here is “Getting to Zero HIV Infections- Engage Prevent Celebrate #JijueJipange”
Kenya has the joint fourth-largest HIV epidemic in the world (alongside Mozambique and Uganda), in terms of the number of people living with HIV, which was 1.6 million people in 2013. Roughly 58,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in the same year although this dropped by 32% between 2009 and 2013.1 There are now 1.1 million children orphaned by AIDS.
The first case of HIV in Kenya was detected in 1984, and by the mid-1990s it was one of the major causes of mortality in the country putting huge demands on the healthcare system as well as the economy. HIV prevalence peaked at 10.5% in 1996, and had fallen to 6% by 2013 mainly due to the rapid scaling up of antiretroviral treatment (ART).
Let’s talk about AIDS.
In Kenya unfortunately the highest prevalence is between married couples. How come? If we take a typical married couple then here are some harsh facts:
- Most have a child out of wedlock
- A traditional wedding expenses prevents a proper union
- Modern wedding phenomenon also does not help
- Multiple partners are part of this “marriage”
The above are just some obvious signs of broken relationships and worse health statuses. At the core religion plays a crucial role it is up to the Papacy to say whether condoms are allowed or not. In the recent Zika virus crisis Pope Francis said that the use of condoms was ok, while the Church is known to be one of the largest caregivers to HIV patients, it mostly rebuffs comments on using condoms to prevent HIV.
Thus, as Kenyans it comes down to the culture. We have to come out of our shells and discuss serious topics and take responsibility. Going into a marriage when you do not know your HIV status is like signing up for a death sentence for life. This goes for all communities and should be seen as taking personal health seriously. There is nothing wrong in looking up your spouse’s health status, just like when the woman is ready to conceive and the gynecologist asks about the family medical history, so why not about sexual diseases? It is your right as both man and woman to know. There are no hidden facts that quite a few marriages are already having affairs so why would you want to poison your family with a disease you are bringing home because you cannot control your desires. Marriage is a partnership for better or for worse, but does not let that worse be the end of a life.