As Kenya prepares to mark the 31st anniversary of the World Aids Day on December 1, Nakuru-based teacher Serah Muthoni Mwangi says living with the HIV/ Aids virus has been a painful one.
Having endured the effects of the virus, Ms Mwangi is unhappy with the way some of her colleagues treat students living with HIV.
“It is sad that in this era when people hear the word HIV/Aids they think it is a death sentence. I have lived with the virus for 22 years. The condition is manageable,” she told Nation.
Ms Mwangi, who teaches English and Literature at Afraha High School in Nakuru Town, said that she has seen two students succumb due to lack of support.
“If the school had a good support system, the two lives would have been saved. These students start experiencing discrimination at home and this is extended in school,” she said.
Students who take antiretroviral drugs are likely to discriminate against.
“It is sad that students have no support system at home and when they come to school, it is even worse. I feel so bad when I see a student going down and I can’t help,” she said.
She said identifying students with HIV /Aids in school is another tall order unless one is a member of the guidance and counselling department.
Ms Mwangi revealed that teachers in the department are not professionally trained to handle HIV positive students.
“In counselling you’re not allowed to reveal the client’s status but it is sad some teachers discuss this in the staffroom,” she said.
She revealed that in a school in Baringo County, a teacher carries the HIV /Aids drugs to the classroom.
“Some teachers carry HIV drugs to class and warn students to be careful not to get the virus, this is wrong because in the same class or school, there could be HIV positive students,” said Ms Mwangi.
She said teachers should stop hurting the affected students.
“Some teachers tell students to be careful while handling the First Aid kits as some students may be carriers of HIV virus,” she said.
“Teachers should strive to know the status of the students and help them overcome the stigma instead of instilling fear on others.”
“It is wrong for some teachers to condemn them HIV positive students.”
“Teachers should encourage students to take their drugs as prescribed by doctors,” she added.
Ms Mwangi, 46, has defied countless obstacles including myths that surrounds HIV/Aids whose national prevalence stands at 4.9 per cent. She has battled painful and stressful multiple surgeries.
She has met medics who helped save her life when her condition seemed hopeless. She would literally spend years in hospital beds as doctors struggled to kill cancer cells.
Yet not even ill health could stop her from battling life threatening illnesses. She says cancer treatment can take a woman to early menopause.
Throughout her 22 years with HIV virus, she has picked several lessons along the path. She has spent a great deal of her time trying to demystify HIV/ Aids.
“HIV/Aids is not a death sentence. It is transmitted through blood transfusion and sexual intercourse. You can’t get it through saliva, the virus does not survive in such conditions,” she added.
She continued: “I am always annoyed when I hear people says you could get HIV virus in a swimming pool, this is misleading.”
However, she says all is not lost as there is hope for a better treatment.
“Unlike in the past when HIV was ravaging the country, these days, people are put on first line medication. They are treated with one drug DTG,” she added.
Cancer is one of the opportunistic infections and experts have raised a red flag that majority of the cancer infections are related to HIV/ Aids.
“Cancer treatment is a rigorous exercise and sometimes you manage the viral load with the surgeries. Sometimes the wounds become very difficult to heal,” she said.
She says radiotherapy is painless but the rays burn some parts of the body, sometimes causing wounds that do not easily heal.
Some of the embarrassing side effects of chemotherapy is falling hair, numbness, vomiting, constipation and diarrhoea due to low immunity.