There are increasing cases of sexual and Gender Based Violence (GBV), teen pregnancies and new HIV infections, which are not the ‘triple threats’ bedeviling Homa Bay County.
Some victims of GBV who have contracted HIV after a sexual assault are as young as 10 years.
Nana*, for instance, is a class four pupil in Karachuonyo Constituency and is still traumatised after she was allegedly defiled in a bush by her step-grandfather six months ago.
“I wanted to escape but my grandfather threatened to cane me,” recalled Nana who was instructed to keep mum over the incident.
Nana, an orphan, returned home in pain but which her grandmother noticed. Nana opened up after three weeks.
Even though the girl was living with HIV after she suffered mother-to-child HIV transmission during birth, medical examination at the Kendu Bay Sub-county hospital found that she had contracted another strain of the virus. This explained why her health was deteriorating.
“The defilement exacerbated her condition,” said her granny who changed her anti-retroviral drugs to improve her condition.
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Nana’s grandpa was later arrested and taken to Kendu Bay Police Station.
Besides new HIV infections, cases of sexual and gender-based violence, also lead to unintended pregnancies, and mothers in places like Kochia in Rangwe Sub-county, are forced to raise children to allow their daughters to complete their secondary education.
“Sexual and Gender-Based Violence has exposed me to financial problems because I have to raise my grandson and pay his mother’s school fees,” lamented one mother from Kochia village.
According to Justus Ochola, the Coordinator of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Homa Bay, the county recorded 4,000 new infections in the last three months and currently has 126,000 people infected with the virus and are on treatment.
The majority of leading HIV spread are aged between 10 and 24 years and who “continue spreading the virus as most are not married and have multiple sexual partners,” said Ochola, adding that gender-based violence through rape and defilement, frustrates women and girls making them engage in sex to survive.
Ochola blamed out-of-court settlements for the continuation of the triple vices and “Kangaroo courts are the main obstacles because perpetrators compromise victims in villages. In fact, in some cases, gender-based violence is not reported.”
Ochola reckons the ‘triple threats’ “will reduce if punitive legal action is taken against perpetrators” and various community-based organisations (CBOs) have been formed to support victims.
In Rangwe Sub-county, Great 8 Pillars CBO chairman Kennedy Osewe said they have enrolled 80 teen mothers who are being supported with school fees for their education, and “we also sensitise the teen mothers to prevent unintended pregnancies.”
In Rachuonyo North Sub-county, IKDLANIA CBO Chairman Helekiah Obonyo said HIV-positive persons are economically empowered by supporting their farming activities, and “we are also reducing stigma and sensitising the community to reduce new HIV infections.”