A lot of parents in Kenya took the secret of their HIV status to their graves, leaving their children ignorant and constantly sick.
Brian Omondi, who was born with HIV, started taking anti-retroviral (ARV) pills when he was 10. However, it was not until he was 14 when his mother had died that he realised what the pills were for.
Now 22, and an HIV activist working with a church group, he says his condition was not picked up at birth. During his early years growing up in Mombasa he remembers being ill often:
“I was sick most of the time but the condition worsened, so my mum decided that I should get tested. That is when I tested positive and started taking the ARVs, but my mum never told me why I was taking those drugs” he said.
It was when he went to live with his aunt, after his mother died, that neighbours in the close-knit community got wind of his HIV status and his peers began mocking him.
He went on to say, ‘parents will often warn their children about playing with those who have HIV. I remember this girl in high school, we met in person and she addressed me as: ‘You HIV person.’ This hurt me.”
Omondi however says that he does not blame his mother for not being upfront with him.
“I think she could have been open with me but on the other hand I cannot blame her because she was trying to protect me at that age. It is hard!
You find that you will be stigmatising yourself, you will be asking yourself some questions like: ‘If these people find out about my status how will they take me? How will they treat me?'”