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 the coastal city of Mombasa he remembers being unwell:
“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.”
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. 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.”
Dr Griffins Mang’uro says it is also important for guardians to be more open and tell children their HIV status – when they are between the ages of nine and 11.
“As soon as a child understands what HIV is, what disease is, then that is the right age to break the news to them that they are infected and that they need to take medication. The thing is, as soon as a child takes any medication then they should know that they are HIV-positive and they are taking medication for HIV.
He warns that to leave them in the dark also puts them at risk as they may not take the medication properly.
“Or they might grow resentful in future because they were not told early.”
Would you tell your child they have HIV?