Success story of a discordant couple
Name: John Maindi (41)
Marital status: married
John dropped out of school while in standard 6 due to lack of uniform, to school fees and family issues. He then opted for a job as a casual laborer in peoples homesteads.
“I married my first wife in 1988. We were blessed with three children, two of whom passed away at tender ages. The surviving child (a son) is 20 years of age at the moment. I later separated with the first wife due to family issues in 1992, and then proceeded to marrying a second wife in 1995. We had three children, one of whom passed away and two are alive; a son (1995) and a daughter (1999).
Between 1988 and 2000, I was fond of marrying and remarrying women and was much involved in promiscuity. This resulted into a separation with the second wife, due to my unfaithfulness and a lot of extra-marital affairs with women in our locality. I married my third wife in August 2000. Word had it that my third wife was HIV+ due to infection from her deceased husband. I decided to stay with her, irrespective of the rumors from the community members.
In 2002, my wife started being sickly and I took her to the nearby community dispensary each time she got ill. I never suspected anything. In 2003, the illness became more serious as she was falling sick now and then. I still did not suspect anything. In 2004, the illness got to its peak and she was totally bed-ridden. I decided to shift her treatment from Government Dispensary to a Private Clinic. Due to financial constraints I could not afford her the most effective specialized treatment, as my economic status did not allow me to do so.
It was discovered in this clinic that my wife had TB and thus we decided to seek for advanced medical attention. She went for a chest X-ray at Provincial Hospital in Kakamega, accompanied by a medical attendant from the clinic. She was put to TB treatment and referred to Butere District Hospital. She was put on TB drugs for 8 months and then advised to take the remaining drugs back. We still did not sense anything wrong, since the medical attendants never told us of her condition. We thought that it was a normal illness and that she would get better. The coughing persisted for the following months.
It was late 2004 when my wife joined an organization called Men and Traditions Against AIDS (MTAA) which was then known as “Lubinu Arise And Shine Youth Group”. After persuading and convincing me to join the organization, I joined her in 2005.
Mrs. Getrude Lwanga (MTAA) invited my wife to her office and set an appointment to meet her with me. She counseled us and we consented to being tested for HIV. It was then discovered that my wife was living with HIV/AIDS. She passed all the reactions associated with positive results, from Frustration, Disbelief, Denial, Anger, and Stigma to Acceptance. She was so worried. Her major worry was that I could easily divorce her, what I never thought of.
I accepted the results as they were after some struggle of the mind; I believed that maybe God had a reason for them. I rather – in company of Mrs.Lwanga – encouraged her and thus gave the strength and courage to move on with life. I have in fact learnt a lot from her condition, and if given a woman who is HIV- I won’t accept. In early stages I had some stress, but did not let it to affect her family. For I knew from MTAA that it’s the highest moment the wife needed my support most. We were referred to a medical facility – St.Mary’s Hospital Mumias – and were well guided by a doctor mrs. Lwanga had already made arrangements with.”
Community never regarded HIV+ people as useful, but rather saw them as burden to the society. They also regarded them as immoral and people not fit to interact, get in contact or rather share any information with the community, due to stigma associated with HIV/AIDS pandemic. HIV+ people were regarded as outcasts in society. They were isolated, name called and even finger pointed at the in the community. The husband also confesses that his wife’s condition changed the perceptions and stereotypes he had towards people living with HIV/AIDS. He also wanted to protect the family name since he loved his wife. They were the first people to be discovered as ‘discordant couples’, where one spouse is HIV- while the other is HIV+.
The wife continued to attend to the clinic at St.Mary’s Hospital, where she received a lot of information concerning HIV/AIDS pandemic. Septrine was also introduced to her for a period of one month. Her CD4 count was still low and thus put under Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) which she is still under up to now.
The wifes story
John’s wife Perita is 37 years old at the moment. She has parted with parents at the age of 15 to work as a house help, since she had not received any formal education. At 18 years of age she got pregnant out of wedlock and proceeded to get married to a man who had divorced his wife. He was not the man responsible for her pregnancy.
She got pregnant for the second time, but at age of 3 the child passed away. At this time the husband was staying in Nairobi, while she was at his rural home in a Western province. The husband was at the moment sickly and had been at taken to a local traditional medicine man, hoping it was witchcraft. He had a lot of skin infections, including boils which had puss. She also contracted the boils. She again conceived for the third round. She had rumors that her husband had passed away in Nairobi due to HIV/AIDS when her third born was one month old. The child passed away within the same month. The relatives of the husband mistreated her, and thus she felt the need for another marriage. “I met John in the year 2000 and we ended up in marriage the same year.”
After the test, she had a strong feeling that she had contracted the HIV virus from her first husband. She also had a feeling that maybe the current husband would desert her, what never happened. She went back for confirmatory tests in 2007 and 2008 and the results were still the same. In 2008, both husband and wife were tested at Moi Referral hospital in Eldoret, where a research is being carried out on discordant couples by Partners House.
“I am still on ARV’s and diet which includes: fruits, highly nutritious flour from amaranth and Soya, pumpkins, cassava, greens, beans, kales, which are locally available. My CD4 count was as low as 209 in 2005, but late 2008 it was 320 and I strongly believe that next time, it will be more than 400.”
This is what they have to say:
- “HIV/AIDS is everywhere, and thus the need to accept the fact that it’s real and a hazard that should be given maximum attention.”
- “We strongly believe that it’s God’s plan for us to live as discordant couples.”
- “One thing we have to cope with on daily basis is stigma, though this has been reduced to a larger extent due to awareness created by various NGOs operating in the locality, especially MTAA.”
- “AIDS is a normal thing because to me, if one adheres to the measure taught to handle it, he/she shall live a normal life, get ill just like any other person in the society.”
- “We are grateful to MTAA at large and more so to Mrs. Lwanga for her contributions to our life. I urge them to continue with the same spirit and to reach out to other community members with similar and even worse conditions than we were in.”
- “Benefits we have derived as members of MTAA include: information on HIV/AIDS, modern methods of farming, poultry, running small canteen, goats, linkage to outreaches, attended workshops/seminars on HIV/AIDS, supply of nutritious flour, education on diet, linked to a health facility where she can accesses the drugs freely, research, house and much more.”
Despite of the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, John and Perita are living a positive life. They have resorted to tireless working to ensure that the community is properly sensitized about HIV and AIDS. They do persuade couples to go for HIV testing and even accompany such couples to the voluntary counseling and testing centers. They have made a tangible success in their campaign. If more support is given to them, we can have greater success.