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Vienna | 1.12.2007 | 10:34 
God, what's happening in the world! A reality check on the web.

Chris, DaddyD, Zita

Reality Check on World Aids Day
  "I'm happy that when I'm invited (to speak) they know that we are people who are already out - that we are disclosing. And the reason why we are disclosing is to help others not go through what we went through."

The words of Vincent Oluoch. He's a schoolteacher and a HIV patient from Kenya that I met this week.

Geographically, he'd come along way to get to Vienna. Never having been on a plane before (or really out of his home region), he told me that (with a little bit of anxiousness) he took his seat on a small plane that was to take him from his home region of Busia and flew to Nairobi. From there, another aircraft took him to Amsterdam and then onto Vienna. But he did it because he is a teacher and, at the invitation of Médecins Sans Frontières he wants to tell us something about HIV in a sub-saharan African country. I guess having listened to his life-story, any apprehension about getting on planes for the first time pales into insignificance.

The figures for HIV/AIDS in Kenya are staggering. It's said that 1.2 million Kenyans are living with the virus, of whom 100,000 are children. In some of the poorer districts of Nairobi, every fifth house you come across is run by children because the parents, uncles and aunts have all died.
Bild: Marcell Nimführ/MSF
  Vincent's wife died a little while back. She didn't take the test but after nursing her through her final months, it left him with two children to bring up alone and he was clearly becoming sicker himself. Access to treatments was and still is difficult; another is the stigma surrounding HIV, as he told me:

"Stigma is one of the major problems. And I have been a victim of stigmatisation at my workplace. Before I tested HIV positive, I was ailing. You know with my condition, you wake-up sometimes and you are not feeling well. I (would) write a note to my supervisor at the school that I'm not feeling well. A week or two weeks could not pass before I'd feel ill. So I got a warning letter. But (I got) this from someone who knew. Because they could see I had lost my wife, but they were just suspecting because she had not been tested (for AIDS). What do I get - a warning telling me that I'm continuously ill - as if illness is something that is invited! When I took up the issue with my supervisor I was threatened with being transferred even further from where I stayed. It is like they want to get rid of you. So stigma is still there."
  The good news for Kenya is that prevention and treatment programmes do seem to be having an impact. According to figures release by UNAIDS, many Kenyans are prepared to go for testing and there is increasingly better access to treatment programmes. But still many challenges lie ahead.

I guess it's also good to know that it's not just international relief organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières who are doing their best in reducing the devastating impact of HIV. In this instance, Kenyans and patients like Vincent are taking the lead in teaching awareness programmes and showing that despite being afflicted with the HIV virus, in Vincent's own words:

"Initially, I had given up hope - but there is hope even with HIV/AIDS"

Reality Check on World Aids Day can be heard at 12 midday (1.12.07) on FM4 or you can download the podcast after the programme by clicking here.
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