Thursday, March 17, 2011

KENYA: Stigma keeps Asian population from accessing HIV services

via PlusNews

When 20-year-old Jenna,* a Kenyan of Asian descent, told her family two years ago she had tested positive for HIV, they forced her to terminate her pregnancy, forbad her to seek treatment and kept her locked in the house because of the shame she had brought on the family.

She did, however, go against their will and obtained life-prolonging antiretroviral medication at hospital. She now lives with another family who have taken her in and accepted her status.

"When I insisted on seeking treatment, my family chased me away," Jenna told IRIN/PlusNews. "For them it was good if I died slowly rather than shame them by seeking treatment and giving people an opportunity to know my status."

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics estimates there are about 120,000 Kenyans of Asian - largely South Asian – origin, mainly living in the three major cities of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.

According to Anwar Ali Sharif, 36, the only Asian member of the National Empowerment of People Living with HIV/AIDS of Kenya (NEPHAK), stigma is the biggest impediment to Kenyan Asians accessing HIV/AIDS services.

"There is a lot of stigma among Kenyans of Asian origin. Many people who are HIV-positive are locked in the house because it is feared they will shame the family if it is known they are HIV-positive," he said.

He noted that while wealthy Asians could afford to visit private health facilities where no one need know their status, the stigma of visiting the clearly marked comprehensive HIV care clinics in public hospitals kept poorer Asians away from treatment.

[If an item is not written by an IRMA member, it should not be construed that IRMA has taken a position on the article's content, whether in support or in opposition.]

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