Stigma silently killing those living with HIV, Aids in Kisii

Both HIV positive and orphaned children at a private primary school 45-year-old David Marube started at Nyumue village in Kisii. [PHOTOS: DAVID NJAAGA/STANDARD]
By DAVID NJAAGA 

KISII COUNTY: Stigma is literally killing more people living with HIV and Aids in Kisii County than the disease itself. Recent studies indicate that the HIV prevalence rate in Kisii and Nyamira are quite high, higher than the national rate of 5.6 per cent.

To put it more simply, health officials say nine in every 100 people in Kisii live with HIV and Aids.

Stigmatisation has forced many to commit suicide, leaving young children to fend for themselves.

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Without many options for the children, they opt out of school to focus on how to take care of their daily needs.

For many years, neighbours ignored this turn of events but now, some have been moved by the situation to help the children.

One such Good Samaritan is David Marube, 45, who says he was touched by the plight of these orphans that he decided to help them get an education.

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He has set up a private primary school at Nyumue village to provide free education to children in his village.

“Kids only pay a small amount annually just to keep the school running; I cater for the rest,” he says.

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Marube, who doubles up as the school’s official director, notes that a majority of parents cannot afford to pay school fees for their children.

“Watching these children suffer at close proximity is the worst thing an able person can ever do,” he observes.

Since its inception five years ago, the school has a good number of students and five qualified teachers.

“I cater for the teachers’ monthly salary, and no matter how little the amount is they don’t complain because they also understand the value they bring to this society,” he notes.

Through this example, Marube says, he wants to set the pace for other likeminded people in the county to collaborate and change the future of such children.

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Agnes Bosibori, 55, from Kisii’s Nyabiosi ‘B’-Iringa sub-location is also making a contribution to her community.

The mother of three says in 2008 she started a programme in Tabaka village to educate her community on the dangers associated with unsafe sex.

And with support from the National Aids Control Council, Bosibori worked tirelessly to achieve what she terms as the desires of her people.

“Majority of residents in this region have little or no idea how HIV and Aids infection occurs,” she says.

From the time she began up to now, she has noticed a difference; people are now appreciating that HIV is a condition, just like any other.

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INSULTED AND BEATEN

When she started the programme, Bosibori was insulted and even beaten.

“No one was interested in what I had to say. Some ignored me because they thought I was stupid. At some point, I just felt like losing hope,” says Bosibori, whose husband died of HIV-related complications in 1997.

When finally she went for the test, after one year of agonising and assuming that she was already infected anyway, she got the pleasant news that she was negative.

From a lone ranger in the war against HIV three years ago, Bosibori’s Tazomu self-help group now has more than ten members who share her passion.

“My enthusiasm has helped many people in this region and they now crave to help those suffering and in desperation,” she notes.

She says out of her efforts, a good number of infected individuals have disclosed their HIV status without the fear of stigmatisation.

In addition, many have agreed to go for HIV test.

“This has always been my dream in life, seeing members in my community being able to share knowledge on HIV and Aids issues, and above all, reduce the stigma,” she observes.

It is in the course of her work that Bosibori has discovered that the only reason why the HIV prevalence rate in Kisii is very high is due to irresponsible behaviour; they engage in unprotected sex.

Health experts in the county say the high rate of prevalence is largely contributed by stigma that causes a majority to fail to disclose their status, hence spread the virus.

“In as much as we may try to reduce the rate of HIV and Aids infections in the areas much affected by the scourge, if we don’t eliminate stigma we are doing very little,” notes County Health Director Geoffrey Otomo. He says the county has 73,000 HIV positive people, with only 15,000 accessing care and treatment services, and this, he says, is alarming.

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HIV AIDS Stigma Killing