A city man has come out to speak about the struggles of taking HIV medication for the rest of his life.
Peter (not his real name) had suicidal thoughts when he was diagnosed with HIV-Aids in 2008. But every time he thought of suicide, he would think about his 19-year-old son, who at that time was only nine years old.
Peter, 44, describes himself as a man who lived life to the fullest.
“I would engage in extramarital affairs. I would drink late into the night and eat life with a big spoon,” he says. But his party life came to an end when he was diagnosed with the virus.
His whole life changed and he would often suffer from extreme anger and feelings of guilt.
Taking the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) was the hardest. He would either forget or take them hours later, which was not good for his immune system.
“It can be emotionally draining to take medicine every day, but what do you do, what other option do you have if the drugs are what your life depends on?” he says.
For the drugs to work, Peter explains, it is important to take them as prescribed by the doctor, because missing a dose or taking them irregularly, increases the risk of the virus becoming resistant.
Peter’s wife lives positively. He says they both accepted their condition and went for therapy at KAVI Institute of Clinical Research in Kangemi.
At first, Peter’s wife almost gave up on life but she fought on.
“I thought I would lose her because at some point she stopped taking the drugs. Her immune system became weak and she developed liver and kidney failure. But after continuous treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital, she regained her strength,” he says.
The father of one now takes his drugs at 9am and 9pm and makes sure he doesn’t miss with even a minute.
His wife, he says, takes hers at 10am and 10pm. “We both remind each either through WhatsApp, since my wife now lives in a foreign country,” he says.
Peter was narrating his story to the community in Kangemi during the HIV Vaccine Awareness Day marked on Friday last week.
Every day between 8am and 9am he holds health talks with the community in Kangemi. He explains the importance of accepting their condition and taking ARVs. He also creates awareness on the importance of abstaining and not indulging in extramarital sex.
The only issue that’s troubling the couple at the moment is making their 19-year-old son aware of their condition.
“Our son is not HIV positive, we just decided not to tell him, because he was still young. But now that he is past 18 years, we feel the need to tell him. He is the only thing that keeps me going. We want to give him a bright future,” Peter says.
There is still no known cure for HIV, but Peter is hopeful it will be found soon.
Dr Gaudensia Mutua from KAVI says there is still a need to continue investing to develop a vaccine.
“Some people find it difficult to use a condom and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). And even with current treatment programmes, we are still getting new infections with the most concerning age group being 15-24 years,” she says.