4.Your Family Might Know About Your Status via Unintentional Slip-ups
Question: What is the best time to tell your family you have tested positive for H.IV? None. They will never be prepared for it. My mother knew about it via a very hilarious slip up. During a follow up visit to the local hospital, I bumped into girl who lived in our next door. Everyone knew she was H.I.V positive but at that time I had not told anyone. I was not ready to reveal my status so I told her not to tell anyone at home about it. Now, if you know women, the maximum period they can hold a secret is 24 hours. She went and told my mum’s best friends about it and told her not to tell anyone. You can see where this is going. What did my mum’s best friend do? She went and blurted it out to my mum the same afternoon. I was not at home when it happened.
When I came home in the evening, mother was weeping uncontrollably. Between sobs she whispered, ‘is it true?’ at this point, I knew the cat was out of the basket so I said yes. Later in the evening, my sister came home and she found mother still crying. So I had to tell her too. And just like that, two close family members knew. That was in October. In November, I went to visit my big bro in Lang’ata. That time I was taking some tablets. Not ARVs. When you test positive, you are not placed on ARVs immediately. You begin taking ARVs depending on your CD4 count. In lay man terms, CD4 are the soldiers that protect you from disease while H.I.V is the terrorist stamping out your weakly soldier. It slowly wipes out your CD4 until none is left so that when you get some other disease, you are defenseless. For negative people, the CD4 count should be more than 600. When I tested positive, my CD4 count was 601. At the time, the threshold for beginning ARV therapy was 350 (It was later raised to 500). In the meantime, they put you on some tablets called septrins to prevent opportunistic infections.
When I went to Lang’ata, I had about ten packets of these tablets. Most of you know the living arrangements when you visit married relatives in town. You sleep on the couch. All your stuff is in the living room. One evening my 2 year old nephew was playing with a ball and it bounced inside my bag, when the dad went to retrieve the ball, guess what he found? Tens of tablets. So he asked and I had to tell him, and his wife too.
- You Find Support and Stigma from Unlikely Place
When I told my brother about it, his wife suddenly started treating me differently. Like handing me food via a 10 meter long pole. Just kidding. But her attitude changed completely. One week after the incident, I was ejected from the house on the pretense that they were expecting some visitors.
I have mostly been open about my status. For instance, my roomies in KU knew about it and were very supportive. In fact, they would remind me to take my meds. But the more challenging bit has been getting a romantic partner. Whenever I meet someone I am interested in, I open up to them. Then they disappear into thin air. It’s like I have this magic stick, which I wave to make people disappear. Some even block me on WhatsApp and Facebook. For those who are unaware, H.I.V is not transmitted through chat messages.However, most of my friends are supportive. When I told my best friend from my former high school, he was shocked, but when he overcame the initial shock, we became even closer than before.
In spite of the decay of the general public health sector in Kenya, I would say the care and attention that H.I.V patients receive in public health facilities is amazing. Generally, the government and medics pay more attention to communicable diseases. Even in KU, where the health clinic is atrociously lethargic, the university has put up a special facility dedicated solely to H.I.V testing and treatment. Whenever I go there, the service is efficient in spite of the long lines.