Peter Odero, founder of HEKO shares with us some insight from an interview he had with a couple on social health disparities on stigma and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS.
Q: Why do people not like going for HIV/AIDS Testing?
A: “Many people do not like going for HIV/AIDS Testing for fear of disclosure if tested positive. Stigma and discrimination is still a major factor among families and communities. People tested positive are still a subject of isolation even at such a time like this when a lot of information is available in the public domain because of the negative attitude people received about HIV/AIDS. Some facilities employ unqualified staff who have poor approach to clients. There is also fear of not getting proper attention among family members and even during counseling sessions.”
Q: Why do people default on ARVs?
A: There are many factors that cause people to default on ARVs:
- False Prophesies: There are a number of healing churches which pose to have a healing strategy for people living with HIV/AIDS. People who are desperate are easily swayed and believe in such and deliberately decide to drop their adherence to ARV drugs.
- Traditional Healers: Some people who are HIV positive easily believe in traditional healers and choose to default and go for traditional option. This is also common practice among slum dwellers.
- Stigma, Discrimination or Denial: This is a common occurrence practiced among pregnant mothers who turn HIV positive after volunteer on HIV pregnancy test. Their spouses or immediate family members discriminate against them and many times are subjected to fear and become discouraged from taking their ARVs. At this stage, there are some who face hostility and resistance after disclosure of status.
- Fatigue from Medicine: Majority of people on ARVs suffer from the burden of being under so many drugs prescribed due to opportunistic infections. Taking such drugs alongside ARVs causes fatigue and discomfort which result into default on ARVs.
- Food and Nutrition: Dietary issue in nutritious meals go with ARVs given the fact that some of these drugs have clear warnings “do not take without food”. There is fear of taking ARVs in an empty stomach. This means that most people living below poverty level are at risk of defaulting.
Q: With all the facilities and information on the ground, why are some people not accessing these facilities?
A: “With all the facilities and information available on HIV/AIDS, people are still not freely accessing these facilities because majority are still having a feeling of fear, despair, and isolation when an HIV test result is positive. Stigma and discrimination is still causing a lot of challenges to the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in the society. Some facilities are also not equipped with the right personnel to effectively handle cases where one is tested positive. Information of HIV tests are supposed to be personal and confidential to help restore confidence on the affected individual.
There are many cases where families or individuals have not yet received the correct information about HIV/AIDS. There are also many negative beliefs and assumptions about HIV/AIDS that has led to non-compliance attitude among community members.”
Q: In your own opinion, what is the quality of life for people on ARVs?
A: “Many people on ARVs have accepted their new status and are living positive with HIV/AIDS despite challenges around them. Majority no longer suffer from fear and discrimination that characterize people tested HIV positive. They participate fully with the rest of their family members in the day-to-day socio-economic activities for their well-being to have sustainable resources to make them stay in treatment for a lifetime as they cope with local social disparities.
In my opinion, and in the eyes of majority, there is a sharp contrast between people on ARVs and the other people living with HIV/AIDS who are not yet on ARVs.”
Q:What would you like to be done differently from what is being done now?
A: “There is a need for a more collaborative approach to help deal with HIV/AIDS pandemic in our society.
More intensive door to door approach on families and individuals would make more appeal in terms of education and general management and control of the spread of HIV/AIDS.
There is a need to invest more on poverty reduction to create an enabling environment for self-reliance among families and individuals infected and affected by the impact of HIV/AIDS.”
Without help from the Mocha Club, these people would not get the help they need to live a full and happy life with HIV/AIDS! Join the Mocha Club today!