In 2006, Beatrice Kiplimo (not her real name) had prepared to welcome her third born child. HIV was not on her radar. Never had been.
Kiplimo, 31, from Salgaa Trading Center in Rongai sub-county in Nakuru was rushed to the Rift Valley Provincial General hospital during her labour for safe delivery.
The mother of five successfully gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. However, after birth, she became weak. She could not walk without support. She had a fever and lost appetite.
Her newborn baby too developed fever, rashes and a dry cough. Medics at the facility were conducted several tests on the baby and mother.
Ms Kiplimo remembers the chilly Saturday evening while lying unstable at the hospital when medics who had conducted the tests approached her bed.
They took their time before delivering the shocking news to her; she was HIV positive.
“I was broken. I was in my prime and there I was feeling like a nobody. I did not know how I was going to conceal my ‘shame” Ms Kiplimo recalls.
She says, she contracted the virus when she worked at a flower farm in Rongai Subcounty.
Full of anger and denial, Kiplimo fled from her husband’s home to go reside with members of her family. She needed time.
After one year, she travelled back to her home and informed her husband who remained ignorant about her status. He did not go for testing.
Two years, down the line, Kiplimo became pregnant. During her pregnancy, she was taken through counselling. Well equipped with knowledge on how to prevent mother to child transmission, she went through the pregnancy with little anxiety.
Unfortunately, one of her twin babies contracted the virus. The baby was put on treatment. 9 years later, she continues to take the medication.
Living Positively with HIV
Kiplimo is now among mothers living positively. Two years ago, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. She breastfed him exclusively.
Surprisingly, Kiplimo explains to Afyawatch that despite accepting her condition, she is yet to inform members of her family for fear that she will be stigmatised.
She has five children. One of them has the HIV virus.
She cautions people to know their status.
“Knowing your status is a bold move each individual should take. This is what powers you to live positively” observes the mother.
Due to discrimination in the society, some people living with HIV are not able to take ARVs regularly because of fear of being spotted picking their medication in hospitals.
“The society needs to give support to positive people because it is unfortunate some end up having weak immune system because they sneak in hospitals to pick drugs that they do not use as expected, ” she explains.
Further, she urges patients undertaking ARVs among other drugs to undergo regular viral loads tests to help them manage the disease effectively.
Martin Imuka, a clinical officer based at Rongai health Center says viral load tests help to indicate the strength of the immune system, stage of infection for people living with HIV and help medics determine when patients should begin antiviral treatment.
“Determining viral load is a vital component in the management and care of HIV patients and is required to assess their candidacy for ART initiation,” says Mr Imuka.
According to Imuka, cases of mother-child infection can be significantly reduced with proper treatment and management.
After conception, he informs Afyawatch that a mother is taken through HIV tests at three months, and those found positive are taken through counselling and put on ARVs and septrin.
The mothers are advised to undergo checkups after every two weeks for monitoring purposes.
‘Beatrice Kiplimo’ is one of more than 1.6 million people in Kenya living with HIV.
Significant progress has been made in the management of the disease.
This year, Kenya made a significant leap when it became the first African country to introduce a new drug Kenya was the first African country to introduce a new drug Dolutegravir (DTG) as first line in the management of HIV.