So today is world AIDS day. I thought it only appropriate that we talk about this disease that is still bringing pain and sorrow to many families in our country. Reality is that almost our entire population is, or knows someone who is, either infected or has been affected by HIV/AIDs.
The number of new infections remains high, despite a decline from year to year. The saddest part is that the majority of the new infections is amongst the youth aged between 19-24. According to NACC:
The young people significantly contribute to high HIV burden in the country. They constitute the largest proportion of people living with HIV. Notably, they have contributed 51% of adult HIV new infections showing rapid rise from 29% in 2013.
A number of factors have advanced this alarming rate of infection such as incorrect perception of their risks on HIV; limited knowledge on sexual behaviour that expose them to HIV such as failure to use condoms during the first sexual intercourse; failure to resist forced sex from partner; having sexual intercourse under influence of alcohol or drugs among others.This suggest a need to promote programmes
that will reverse this pattern over time.
It’s a worrying reality that in our country, more than three decades after HIV/AIDS was first diagnosed, we are still more scared of impregnating or getting pregnant than getting infected with an STD. The number of emergency contraceptives sold in the mornings to people who just had one night stands is alarming. while using a condom could have protected against both the risk of pregnancies and STDs.
It only makes sense that before you get into a committed relationship that you get tested as well, yet despite the sensitization very few of us even know how the inside of a VCT center or any other testing facility looks like. Mainly because we assume that we are uninfected and so is our partner or we are too scared to find out.
Those who do get tested and find out they are positive are too scared to tell their family and friends for fear of stigmatization. Despite all the information we have, we still tend to treat HIV/AIDS patients like they have the plague. This further hurts the number of people willing to get tested and/or admit they are living with the disease which in turn hurts the campaign of trying to bring infection rates down.
Let us remember that HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence and one can continue to live long full lives after testing positive as long as they take care of themselves and take ARVs. Knowing your status helps you take better care of yourself and plan your future. If you know or are related to someone suffering from the disease, let us treat them as one of our own without stigmatizing them to help them cope.
My challenge to you today is to go get tested and if you are uncomfortable, self-test kits are available in some pharmacies in Kenya e.g GoodLife Pharmacy allowing you to test from the comfort of your home.