Do You See HIV?

Author: Lucy Wanjiku, Kenya

Motherhood is a gift from God and under no circumstance should one be denied the experience if one wants and is able to have a child. I say this confidently based on my walk through the ups and downs of being a mom. The most exhausting and rewarding job under God's perfect sun. Seeing my little girl grow, has added so much value to my life and I am a better person because of her. I cannot imagine life without her, not for anything in this world. To think that someone behind closed doors can decide for a second, that just because of my HIV status I do not deserve to have a child shutters the core of my being. If only this person would take a walk a mile in our shoes.

In the informal settlement of Kibera lives a young woman Benta. She was born HIV positive. She eats as well as possible from what she can afford to ensure she has a balanced diet. She dated Peter for five years and he finally proposed. He has accepted her status and that was no issue. They started living together and for the last two years have been trying to conceive with no success. On wanting to find out what could be wrong they visited a gynecologist. Surprisingly, he reveals her tubes were 'tied', not literally but it is an irreversible process that means never will she ever give birth. But how? When? Why? Her mother should know and so she paid her a visit in her birth village. They talk in hashed tones because here the walls have ears and they would never know how to overcome the stigma if their status came to be known and so they have nicknamed her HIV “the monkey on our back”.

Her daughter’s sterilization was news to her Mama who always wanted a second child but did not seem to get pregnant until her husband died a few years ago. He always wanted a big family of five children and when she could not give him this, he turned to alcohol to sooth his ego after a neighbor called him impotent during an exchange of words. They found him that cold rainy morning lying on his stomach in a pool of water near his home. He drank himself to death. Her mother confirmed that she too was sterile. After further investigation, it is seen that it was a conversation she once had with a doctor after she delivered baby Achieng on how she would never give her a good life. She was after all HIV positive and poor. This too would have her a muddled life and it would be better if she did not have more children. They would help get Achieng through school and a proper meal throughout if she accepted to be sterilized. She accepted immediately and she does not recall what happened after she was given some tablets to give to young Achieng too. Who fights for them? What wrong did they ever do to deserve this? Who gave them doctors the role to play God and judge what they were supposed to do or not with their God given wombs.

When you look at them, do you see HIV or a right denied to a woman to have as many children as she wants and a young woman who will never know the joys of a kicking baby foot in her tummy? Do you see HIV or see pain? I see a woman rendered helpless and I want her to get justice. All women have this right despite and inspite of their HIV, class, wealth status. Let my sister have her baby. Leave her womb alone. ICW has been champion well over a decade to stop the forced and coerced sterilization of women living with HIV. We can no longer be the targets to this grave human rights abuse.

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