News / Africa

HIV Groups in Kenyan Slum Organize Self-Help

FILE - Kenyan demonstrators take to the streets with calls for increased funding to ensure universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, in Nairobi.
FILE - Kenyan demonstrators take to the streets with calls for increased funding to ensure universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, in Nairobi.

Kenyans living with HIV or AIDS in Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum, are finding support groups essential to coping with the health, economic and social challenges they face.

Peter Oduor is a teacher at Kibera’s Tumaini primary school. Five years ago, he tested positive for HIV.  He believes most of the slum's residents are susceptible to the virus because of poverty.
 
“In Kibera here, HIV is mostly spread because of poverty," he said. "You find that there are people who need to feed their families; for them to get money to feed their families, they engage in prostitution, they abuse drugs, most of them drink. And when someone is drunk, they can do anything to get money.”

Oduor said as a teacher he has a responsibility to be a role model for his students - in spite of the stigma attached to the virus. In addition, with HIV, he needs to eat well to keep his immune system strong and to spend eight hours a day on his feet instructing students.

Providing support
 
But healthy foods and medicines cost money. Oduor earns a modest salary of $45 per month, or about $1.50 per day. He can feed himself, but there's no way he can afford ARV [antiretroviral drugs] therapy, which costs about $45 a week.
 
That is where a number of HIV/AIDS support groups in Kibera come in -- offering both free medications and psychosocial counseling to those infected with HIV, as well as their partners, families and caregivers.
 
These groups work in partnership with government-run clinics in Kibera to distribute ARVs at no cost. But their work goes beyond free medicine, said Oduor.
 
“You can go to the hospital and find that medicines are not there and so you have to buy," he said. "So if you don’t have money, those support groups can help you to get the medication.”
 
There are more than 100 support groups in the slum that work closely with to reach as many HIV-infected people as possible.

Facing early death

Kibera is home to some one million people and the United Nations estimates that HIV prevalence rate here is at least 10 percent.

Many of those infected are facing an early death. The Kibera Law Center notes that life expectancy in Kibera is 30 years of age compared to 50 in the rest of the country.
 
Babra Ngedi, 28, discovered she was HIV-positive four years ago during a routine pre-natal clinic appointment. Her daughter is HIV-free, though, thanks to the help of the Kibera South Wanga Hospital, a government run clinic.  

She said ARVs have helped reduce mother-to-child transmission of the virus, but more could be done.
 
“They are trying their best but if we could have more NGO’s, I think it will be helpful," said Ngedi. "Then they will support us more, especially for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.”

Peer counseling

Ruth Njagi, founder of ‘Second Chance Consults,’ which deals with reproductive related issues including HIV/AIDS, says normalizing HIV through peer support is almost as important as medication for those infected.
 
“Being HIV comes with the normal loss and grief stages, like shock, denial and sometimes people take so much time when they are denying," said Njagi. "They don’t seek help or anything because they are in denial. But when they are able to join a support group and listen to other people, they are able to come in terms with their status and acceptance is actually the key to living positively.”
 
And this is why Oduor looks forward to the weekly meetings of his support group.
 
“When you go to hospital, you meet people with the same status and from there you talk and exchange ideas," said Oduor. "And the closest friend that I have is the one who encourages me and tells me to do this and that and so I feel like am welcomed and am one of them.”
 
The United Nations estimates approximately 1.3 million Kenyans are living with HIV, including 156,000 children. Oduor said he considers himself as one of the lucky few who are getting free access to lifesaving medication and understanding.
 
Rael Ombuor in Nairobi contributed to this report.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid