HIV+ Mom-Of-2, Phenny Awiti Recounts How She Discovered Her Status And What Happened After Is Heart-Breaking

In a world where people who are living with HIV/AIDS are faced with stigmatization the moment they make their status public, a woman who contracted the disease is using her status to change the narratives.

Phenny Awiti‘s life took a turn in 2008, as a 16-year old form 2 student of Asumbi Girls’ High School. Awiti had no sexual partner at that time so the thought that she could be HIV positive did not cross her mind.

The 26-year old bold mom-of-2 who is now involved in many projects, made her HIV/AIDS status known in 2017, on social media and revealed she was born with the disease.

Ms Awiti, who is never afraid of sharing her story so as to create awareness about HIV/AIDS and who desires to encourage other people who are living with it, has moved many to tears after revealing her own journey with HIV.

In an interview with TUKO.co.ke, Awiti at her Nairobi home on Friday, August 10; opened up on what has been a journey of battling with discrimination.

“I am HIV Positive and currently doing activism on HIV/AIDS awareness, discrimination and stigma.

I came out as a person living with HIV May 2017, through my social media platform; Facebook. My reason for coming out is because I endured stigma and discrimination the moment I discovered my status.”

READ ALSO: How Beautiful Mom-Of-1, Brenda Motsumi Got Infected With HIV And The Good She Claims Is In It For Her

Awiti met a number of men; most of whom were convinced it was unsafe to be intimate with her and not get infected.

She finally met the father of her two beautiful girls and like any other man, she disclosed to him her status and he was okay with it at first but later changed his mind, dumping her for another woman.

“I FINALLY MET THE FATHER OF MY TWO GIRLS, LIKE ANY OTHER MAN, I DISCLOSED TO HIM MY STATUS AND HE WAS OKAY WITH IT.

HE WAS A SUPPORTIVE, UNDERSTANDING AND A VERY CALM GUY. HOWEVER, AFTER THREE YEARS OF BEING TOGETHER, WE HAD TO SEPARATE, HE FELL IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE ELSE. I STILL RESPECT THAT TO DATE.

HE WAS HIV NEGATIVE, I WAS HIV POSITIVE, NEVER INFECTED HIM, HE IS STILL NEGATIVE.
WHEN A PERSON LIVING WITH HIV TAKES THEIR MEDICATION WELL, THEY SURPRESS THE VIRUS, AND THUS, VERY LOW CHANCES OF INFECTING A PERSON”.

The HIV/AIDS activist recounts how an organization initiating blood drive donation had visited her school during the 2nd term and she had gladly donated blood like every other student.

Another organization had visited again during the 3rd term, this time, she remembered they were given soda and loaves of bread as an enticement to test their HIV status. It was an amazing opportunity to have free loaf and soda all to herself, she thought.

READ ALSO: Married and Living With HIV/AIDS: Nigerian Women Share Their Sad Stories

”I WAS 16 YEARS OLD, AT ASUMBI GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL. IN FORM TWO, AN ORGANIZATION INITIATING BLOOD DRIVE DONATION VISITED OUR SCHOOL IN SECOND TERM, AND I GLADLY DONATED MY BLOOD, NOT KNOWING MY HIV STATUS.

IN THIRD TERM, ANOTHER ORGANIZATION CAME, THIS TIME, GIVING SODA AND BREAD FOR THOSE WHO WOULD GO FOR HIV STATUS. WITH THE HIGH SCHOOL SURVIVAL STRATEGIES, I SAID, WHY NOT? IT WAS AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE FREE LOAF AND SODA ALL TO MYSELF.

WHEN I GOT INTO THE COUNSELING ROOM, I WAS ONLY ASKED TWO QUESTIONS; HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TESTED BEFORE? AND I SAID NO. DO YOU HAVE A BOYFRIEND? I SAID NO.
IT WAS FORM TWO, I WAS NOT SEXUALLY ACTIVE YET AT THAT TIME.

SO THEN I HAD NO ISSUE WITH GETTING TESTED, I NEVER DOUBTED MYSELF FOR ANYTHING. THE COUNSELOR THEN EXPLAINED THAT WHEN THE LINES READ TWO, IT INDICATED HIV POSITIVE, AND WHEN IT READ ONE, IT WAS HIV NEGATIVE.

I WAS NOT TENSED FOR ANYTHING, I HAD NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. AFTER FIVE MINUTES, THE COUNSELOR PROMPTED ”YOU MENTIONED YOU DID NOT HAVE A BOYFRIEND RIGHT? THEN HERE IS YOUR RESULT.

THE KIT WAS DISPLAYED RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, IT WAS DOUBLE LINE, I WAS HIV POSITIVE. THE COUNSELOR WAS NOT SO GOOD TO ME, SHE ACCUSED ME OF LYING TO HER ON ME NOT HAVING A BOYFRIEND, WHILE I WAS HIV POSITIVE.

TO HER, HIV WAS ONLY TRANSMITTED THROUGH SEXUAL INTERCOURSE, WHICH EITHER WAY, I WAS NOT INVOLVED IN AT THAT TIME. IT BROKE MY HEART, I WAS WORKED UP, MY WORLD WAS SUDDENLY SMALL.”

After going through counseling, traumatized and lost, Awiti dashed to her best friend’s dormitory and disclosed her status marking the beginning of troubles in school.

Though she maintained her friend was very supportive, 4 days later, her condition had become a matter of public knowledge and the whole school knew about it.

”I began thinking of who to disclose to my status. I walked right outside the counseling room, took the soda and bread, and threw it right in front of the parade ground. Friends who knew me knew how well I loved food.

I am an orphan, my mum passed on when I was 10 years old, my dad when I was 5 years old. I have very supportive siblings, in a family of six, I am the last born. I thought of turning to my sister Viola but was scared on how she would take the whole thing.

I ran to my best friend’s dormitory and disclosed to her my status. She was so supportive, but only for some days. Thereafter, my story was leaked to the whole school, the whole school knew I was HIV Positive.

After four days, I went to serve food in the dinning hall, when I stepped inside, I saw a group of girls in a deep conversation. Then all of a sudden I overheard one of them say that is why she is so fat, she takes those drugs.”

On that particular night, her best friend asked her to return every stuff she got from her and then, withdrew completely from Awiti fearing she would be infected.

”I WAS TRAUMATIZED, PEOPLE WOULD BE LOOKING AT ME AND SAYING ”THAT’S WHY SHE IS FAT, SHE TAKES THOSE DRUGS”. MY WORLD WAS SMALL IN HIGH SCHOOL AT THAT TIME.

I WENT TO MY COUNSELING TEACHERS WHO WERE EXTRA SUPPORTIVE, THEY ADVISED ME TO CALL MY SISTER, WHO WAS FREQUENT WITH VISITING ME IN SCHOOL. MY UNCLE WOULD PAY MY FEES, BUT I WAS CLOSE WITH MY SIBLINGS, THEY NEVER MISSED VISITINGS.

SO MY SISTER WAS CALLED AND CAME AFTER SOME DAYS. SHE EXPLAINED TO ME THAT MY MUM GAVE BIRTH TO ME HIV POSITIVE, AS SHE WAS, AND AT THE TIME, THERE WAS TOO MUCH STIGMA, NO ONE THOUGHT OF PREVENTION OF MOTHER TO CHILD TRANSMISSION.

With time, I learned to live with this fact, I was HIV Positive. I was not on any drugs at the moment, so during the holidays, I was introduced to ARVs after my CD4 counts were discovered to be so low. I had various opportunistic infections.

My best friend took back her blanket that I will infect her, everything that we shared or I shared in the dormitory was taken away from me, because my schoolmates believed I would infect them, just by sharing.

I endured all that discrimination for the next two years, I loved my school, how supportive my teachers were. However, begun taking my drugs, but before then, I would be sickly, having rushes all over my body, earache and feeling weak. I had to overcome all that, I had no choice.”

Awiti’s children are HIV negative and she revealed that she was able to breastfeed them as she took her ARVs.

”MY CHILDREN ARE HIV NEGATIVE, I HAVE THE BEST FACILITY FOR TAKING MY DRUGS, AND THE DOCTORS THERE HAVE BEEN SUPPORTIVE ON HOW TO MAKE SURE MY KIDS TURNED HIV NEGATIVE BY GIVING THEM SOME TYPE OF ARVS FOR THE FIRST SIX WEEKS, AND THE REST OF THE MONTHS TILL 18MONTHS, SEPTRIN.”

But how did she deal with men wanting to date her?

“Any guy who would hit on me, I would tell him I am HIV positive. I would not lie to any person.”

In one of her posts, Awiti revealed that convincing an HIV negative man that you cannot infect him is a hard task. She wrote:

”NOTHING AS TIME CONSUMING AND STRESSFUL AS CONVINCING A HIV NEGATIVE MAN THAT IT IS VERY HARD TO INFECT THEM WHEN YOU ARE HIV POSITIVE.

EVER SUMMARISED A DISSERTATION IN FIVE MINUTES? YEAH, ON VIRAL LOAD, CD4 COUNTS, HOW HIV GETS INTO THE BODY, WHAT ROLE ARVS PLAY, HOW WELL HE IS PROTECTED WHEN YOU ADHERE WELL TO YOUR DRUGS AND THAT KISSING CAN NEVER PASS THE VIRUS.

ALL IN LESS THAN FIVE MINUTES, BECAUSE HE IS ALSO PANICKING AND HAS TO GET GOING????????????
OH WELL.”

Watch the interview below:

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“HIV+ Mom-Of-2, Phenny Awiti Recounts How She Discovered Her Status And What Happened After Is Heart-Breaking”

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