Julie, loka! This is Luo for Julie Turn me! These words still ring like a bell in my mind whenever I think of Diana. Diana the twelve-year-old girl, who unlike her peers, was not in school. You might be wondering why the hell would a twelve-year-old need to be turned on their bed.
Diana was a client of KENWA who had been admitted in Nairobi Women’s Hospital due to a severe case of jaundice and nose bleeding that had to be stopped by the use of bandages. She had a bandage covering her nose that made her look like Pinocchio- at least from the limited children’s literature that I had access to, I could recall that Pinocchio had a long nose.
Her feet were swollen and her body aching. She had a swollen stomach and her already pale skin, was turning yellow. Diana was born with HIV and her mother died leaving her in the care of her aunt. Someone had to relieve her care giver from staying in hospital looking after her.
As it was, I was the only Community Health Worker, at Kiambiu Drop in Center who was single, so adjusting my program was not so complicated. Besides, the girl only spoke Luo, so I would be more useful to her. Off I went to Nairobi Womens’ to keep her company for the night.
Doctors had labelled her bed, “Strictly no protein diet”. I guess you get my dilemma when it came to convincing this girl that all she could have was black tea. You see, a sick person and a pregnant person have one thing in common. When cravings strike, there’s no convincing them otherwise. I had to also force her to eat, feeding her like a baby, being very careful not to have it come back and create a mess.
Julie Loka! The whole night she woke me up to turn her severally. I tried my best with my left hand to turn the invalid girl who had been heavier due to being bed ridden. I managed it quite well. By the time it was morning, we had become good friends- what with all the stories we shared!
I had to bathe her and feed her before leaving the hospital. It was actually a fulfilling exercise after all. Before leaving, I had a word with her doctor. She told me that Diana was improving and would soon be discharged.
A week later, Diana’s aunt brought the news to KENWA. Diana was no more. Yaani! Gone, just like that. But she was improving, what happened? Yes! I had questions that I could not voice. I cursed HIV which keeps stealing my friends. Though I had spent just one night with Diana, I missed her. I could not believe I would never see her again. That was in 2003.
In 2015, the theme of the World AIDS Day was- Getting to zero: Ending AIDS and stigma among adolescents and young people. Speaking at the WAD celebration at the City Stadium, Kenya’s first lady, Hon. Margaret Kenyatta said that available statistics are worrisome. “For instance, it is unacceptable that 21% of new adult HIV infections should occur among young women of between 15-24 years of age annually”, she said. “Unless we control new HIV infections among this group, our aspirations of becoming a vibrant middle-income economy in the next few years is in jeopardy”, she added.
According to the National Aids Control Council, 262,403 of 1.6 million people living with HIV in Kenya are adolescents and youth.