It is not just the physical deterioration of the HIV/Aids epidemic that makes it so painful but a more emotional and spiritual attack that takes place that most people don’t know about. To be affected with HIV is to be outcast. Teenagers and young adults who are affected either from hereditary reasons – their parents passed on the infection at birth – or they were involved in at-risk behavior that led to the spread are dealing with a heavy stigma & discrimination that they must deal with alongside their physical health.
“As a result of delayed treatment and the overbearing stigma and discrimination associated with being HIV positive, about 29 percent of all new infections are among adolescents and young people according to a survey released by the Ministry of Health on World Aids Day this year on 1st December 2015.
As a result, HIV-AIDS related complications are the leading course of deaths among the adolescents and young people with 9,720 adolescents and young people dying of such in 2014 alone.”
Our partners at HEKO – Heritage Kenya Organization – work with HIV+ members of the community. Peter, founder of HEKO, shares his insights from his many years of work in the field. The stigma and rejection from their community and peers “makes it challenging to attract and sustain their focus on maintaining their health, particularly for those with chronic illnesses and this explains why those infected with HIV would rather stop taking ARVs than keep answering questions on why they are on pills.”
Sarah*, a 17 year old high school student was invited to speak during World Aids Day. Born with the HIV virus, she has been on ARVs (antiretroviral medication) since her childhood. When her time came to address the gathering, her message was very simple, “end the stigma and discrimination”. She did not ask for a great deal but instead something every human being could afford.
“we the young people are the most vulnerable group. We are one of the segments most at risk of HIV”. “We need prevention strategies tailored and testing campaigns-focused especially on adolescents”. “Many of us are dying young because we do not know our status or because we are of the stigma and discrimination associated with the HIV virus!” Sometimes our parents think we are too young to know our status or to know about the sex and or HIV. Nobody wants to discuss these things with us! They mistakenly think they are protecting us by not disclosing it to us on how it is spread! Yet some of us were born with it and yet still HIV and sex amongst the youth and teenagers is a reality. The earlier you know your HIV status the better because then you are put on medication and you will protect yourself and others”.
Our friends at HEKO are dedicated to not only bringing nutrition education & health care HIV+ women but also to inform the community, friends, and family that the discrimination needs to stop. Your support of this health care program through Mocha Club allows for this important message to be shared and for eradication to come quickly.
Before working as part of the staff at the Mocha Club, I joined as a member back in 2007 supporting the health care projects and HEKO. And this summer after 9 years of support, I will get the chance to go visit Peter and Monica at HEKO and see this life-changing work first-hand. Will you join me? For some of you, traveling to Africa may not be the call for you. But maybe joining me to support these women for $9 a month is – we can’t do this work without your help!
Written by: Fallon Klug
*Out of respect & safety of our partners, names have been changed.