Since her childhood, 23-year-old Vivian Awuor, a resident of Alego in Siaya County, had constantly been in and out of hospital. Her mother died in 2006, and in the same year, during one of the hospital visits, her father requested she be tested for HIV which turned out positive, this was not disclosed to her as she was only eight years old.
Vivian was initiated on medication that she would take daily without knowing what she was ailing from. Her father had warned her against disclosing to anyone that she was on medication, this worried her but she hid to her father’s words.
“I would be given the medicines daily, but most of the time I used to hide or throw them away, this made my health deteriorate further,” says Vivian.
2011, when she was 13 years, she became very sick and was taken to a health facility where a close relative worked. She overheard a conversation between the relative and the health care provider that she should be tested for HIV but remained calm. It was after the test that she was advised to adhere to the medication given.
“The health care provider did not disclose my status to me, but from their conversation, I knew I was HIV positive and this left me with many unanswered questions,” recalls Vivian.
“My relative disclosed my HIV positive status to my teachers and some members of the community and this affected my mental health as I faced a lot of stigma from school and the community to the extent of being depressed I really struggled with adherence,” recalls Vivian.
Her failure to adhere to her medication led to virologic failure leading to a switch from first- to second-line antiretroviral therapy (ART). A switch of regimens is recommended for HIV patients with virologic failure to avert drug resistance, advanced immunosuppression, increased morbidity and mortality, and to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to uninfected sex partners.
In 2015 at the age of 17 years, Vivian confronted her father to confirm why she was on medication together with her younger brother. The father opened up to her and offered her a lot of support and motivation. Her adherence counsellor also stepped in and walked with her through the journey of self-acceptance and adherence to antiretroviral treatment.
The assurance and counselling she received from her immediate family and the medics at Siaya County Referral Hospital brought a new chapter in her life as she accepted her status and made up her mind to adhere to her medication.
With sixteen years of taking ARVs, Vivian has since gained confidence and currently volunteers as a Peer Educator at Siaya County Referral Hospital, a Centre for Health Solutions – Kenya (CHS) supported facility. She motivates her fellow HIV positive adolescents and young adults on self-acceptance, adherence to medication and ways to overcome stigma.