Stories of Resilience Despite Effects of HIV/AIDS

Living a HIV positive life has for a very long time been associated with unbearable stigma. In the past, HIV and AIDS infection was equated to a choice by the infected to start planning for death. There is a positive change following the advent of antiretroviral therapy (ART) which has given back hope to people living with HIV and AIDS. As opposed to the past, HIV infected people now have an opportunity to plan to live and the victims can now live longer. There is a big call for people living with HIV and AIDS to be drug compliant. With this, HIV disclosure has increasingly become a subject of interest as disclosure is regarded as one of the ways of reducing sexual risk behavior and possible transmission of the virus. Disclosure is also encouraged as a way of reducing HIV and AIDS related stigma and a means towards increased victims’ access to support and care. We work with families to educate them on ways of preventing HIV infection and how to live a successful life as an HIV infected person.

We are encouraged by the words of appreciation from residents of the informal settlement of Nyalenda in Kisumu County; Kenya. One of the residents, Mr. Kevin (not his real name) gives an insightful narration of his life. Having lost his wife to HIV infection, Kevin is fully aware of the adverse implications of HIV and AIDS related stigma. In his earlier life (living together with the diseased wife), Kevin noticed a weird behavior in the wife. He hardly knew about the wife’s HIV status until after her death. Upon realizing that the wife had succumbed to HIV and AIDS infection, Kevin decided to get tested for HIV. It was at this moment that he realized that he was also HIV positive. He states, “After realizing that I was HIV positive, I decided to start taking drugs. However, I chose to be so secretive; I did not want anyone to know that I was on HIV and AIDS drugs. I always kept the drugs in hidden areas”. The narration by Kevin is a clear pointer to what many people go through as they struggle with acceptance of the HIV status.

Kevin is one of the many beneficiaries of our Skilful Parenting training. He is happy to have attended the training that marked the genesis of his new-found life. As a result of the training, he learnt the importance of HIV and AIDS status disclosure. He states, “During the training, we were taught about HIV and AIDS disclosure. From this training, I realized the benefits associated with disclosure and decided that instead of only disclosing my HIV status to a chosen few within my family network, I will disclose it to everyone I come across. The choice to disclose my status to everyone was influenced by my understanding that my dear wife died out of stigma because she was reluctant to let anyone know what was eating her slowly.” Kevin is a living testimony of the power of disclosure in enhancing the prominence of support, closeness and narrowing the social distance between the discloser and the disclosure. Disclosure of HIV and AIDS status makes people to feel safe. Safety and support that are achieved after disclosure are vital ingredients of a fulfilling life as an HIV infected person. This narration inspires us to be part of efforts to improve the social context of disclosure and other programs that seek to reduce stigma in the community hence promoting safer environment for disclosure.