As he drove his truck into the next town, Titus* was physically present in the driver’s seat but his mind had been wandering, thinking about his recurrent health challenges. Still lost in his thoughts, Titus spotted the dog crossing the road in front of him just in time and slammed hard on the brakes of the truck, saving the hound’s life. This was a wake-up call to him that he may be tired and needed a rest from the long journey. He pulled over his truck to the side of the road and switched off the engine.
As he scanned his surroundings looking for a place to grab a bite, Titus noticed a mobile HIV testing tent by the side of the road where he had parked, and disregarded it as he did the rest of the shanti’s lined up on the side of the road. However, the more he though about his health, the more the thought of a HIV test crossed his head.
Titus got off the truck and walked to the tent not expecting the results that he walked out with a few minutes later. He was HIV positive. At least he now knew why he had fallen ill so often in the last couple of months, but his heart broke when he thought about the repercussions of this discovery and especially about Angela*.
When Titus and Angela met a couple of years ago, theirs was a match made in heaven and they soon started their blissful life together. They quickly settled in Nyahururu town and were blessed with three children. Titus thought about his lovely wife and family, and the fear of losing them began creeping into his mind. He was angry at himself. HIV was not one of the battles he expected to face with his wife when they started their life together.
Disclosing his status to Angela
Months after Titus took his HIV test, he found time to go home to his family and he promised himself that he would disclose his HIV status to his wife but failed to do so. Fear had gripped his heart about the looming consequences of sharing his status with his wife. He feared losing her.
By this time, Angela was pregnant with their fourth child and he feared the worst for her, especially since she had started developing numerous health challenges. Titus recalled his experiences prior to his test and was sure he knew the cause of her illnesses.
Since he could not face her directly, Titus decided on a different course of action. He visited the Nyahururu District Hospital Comprehensive Care Clinic (CCC) where he was enrolled on care. He described his situation to the doctor as well as his fears and at the end of the meeting, they agreed that it would be best for the couple to come for counselling and testing together, and the doctor would assist in breaking the news to Angela.
Titus managed to convince his wife about the need to visit the hospital for a thorough check up to rule out ‘anything’ that may have gone unnoticed. They tested for various other illnesses like pneumonia, influenza and the likes, before finally drawing blood for a HIV test. They both received counselling before and after the tests, which were positive for both of them.
Angela was confused and angry. She wondered how this had happened to her and why. She could not face her husband for the next few days. She went back home devastated.
Her sadness and anger led her to pray for strength from God, as she still loved her husband and wanted to continue building their family with him. She progressively accepted her HIV status, changed her mind-set towards HIV and affirmed her commitment to staying with her husband despite what had happened.
Titus was elated with her decision to stay. All the fear of being deserted, which had enveloped him went away as the realisation of her love dawned on him. He wondered why he had waited so long to disclose his status to her.
Life after the test
They soon begun attending clinics at the Nyahururu District Hospital for counselling, follow up and treatment. As they were already pregnant, they received counselling and antiretroviral (ARV) prophylaxis to prevent Angela from passing on the HIV infection to their son. She gave birth to a health baby boy who recently underwent the recommended 18-month infant diagnosis test and was confirmed negative.
They have adhered to their clinic appointments to date, and always make time to attend the couples psychosocial support group at the facility where they get support and learn from other couples walking the same journey.
Both are happy with the quality of life they now live. The frequent illnesses they experienced before are gone and their daily focus is on supporting each other on the treatment journey.
“I thank God for the stop over I made next to the mobile clinic almost five years ago, and for my wife’s acceptance of our status. We now live stronger and healthier lives, free of the illnesses previously affected us. They do not haunt us anymore,” an elated Titus shared during a recent interview.
Titus now works as a matatu operator in Nairobi and travels home every weekend to be with his wife and children. He confesses that his wife has played a key role in his adherence to treatment through phone calls to ensure that he takes his ARVs everyday and at the correct time. Due to her proximity to Nyahururu District Hospital, she collects medication for both of them and provides updates on their clinic appointments.
“However, it hurts me to see my wife taking all those medications and for being HIV positive. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would have disclosed my status to her much earlier and probably protected her contracting HIV,” he regrets.
CHS support to Nyahururu District Hospital
With support from PEPFAR through CDC and in its commitment to improving health outcomes, CHS through its TEGEMEZA Program works in partnership with the Department of Medical Services and Public Health in Laikipia County to implement and expand high quality HIV prevention, care and treatment services at Nyahururu District Hospital and Maina Village Dispensary. This is in a bid to complement and synergize the delivery of sustainable health services in the county.
CHS provides support in the form of human resource, infrastructure, staff training and capacity building, laboratory support, routine supervision and direct support to the facility in the form of volunteer allowances, general office supplies, stationery, viral load transport, communication and travel allowances to promote health service delivery. CHS also supports joint county supervision through provision of fuel for vehicles, meals and incidental allowances.
Through the support of the International Centre for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP), CHS carried out repairs to an existing structure at Nyahururu District Hospital in 2012, to develop a modern comprehensive care centre complex. In the current financial year, 17 staff are being supported in Laikipia County at a cost of about five million shillings.
**Names withheld to protect the identity of the couple