This post was motivated by my boy @Wiselar’s post on HIV. I may be highlighting what you already know but will keep the very trend that characterizes my posts; commentary, experience and opinion.
Among the many things that define the constantly greatest woman in my life for the last 27 plus years (Mum), is that she is a Trainer. A trainer of people who take care of and advice HIV/AIDS victims; as such, HIV, relationships and sex have been topics freely discussed between mum, my siblings and myself. I have never really seen Dad being keen on talking about HIV, sex or relationships at home with us freely, unless he is at a public baraza back in the village addressing mourners, students or has assumed guest of honour at a Harambee or someone’s wedding.
Anyway, Mum’s teaching and training has never stopped at her hospitals, schools, seminars or the village. She has always been very keen to ensure that we are aware of what HIV is, that my siblings and I are having healthy sex lives and that the people around us are aware too. She has always encouraged us to tell her about people we are dating, and introduce them whenever we are comfortable to.
I remember this one time when I was in high school; I was notoriously ‘in love’ with a girl, Natasha* from the neighborhood… Yes, the one Mum used to chase with twigs whenever she spotted her on our driveway and basically anywhere she found convenient for a reminder that her son was out of her league (cough)…Even with so much dislike for the poor girl, Mum still used to ask if I had bought her something special on occasion and she went ahead severally giving me four hundred bob every start of February to buy her something nice for Valentine or a gift for her birthday. That’s to say she has always been very supportive of our relationships…until someone breaks your heart and she declares Jihad on their entire clan.
Every opening day to school, she always encouraged us to be social beings, be in relationships, know people, stay away from trouble and get good grades. She didn’t expect us (my half brother and I) to have active sex lives in high school as such, so she was quite moderate until this one evening when she came from overseas unannounced… story for another day, it wasn’t me though, for real. Well, when we got to college, it was a total different tone. I don’t know what their college days were like seeing as she met dad there but from day one of University, the usually polite conversations before departure suddenly carried heavy tones telling us to stay on the safe side when it came to sex. We got these long lectures on HIV and women and the freedom that was coming every time we left home.
Mum never knew where we lived in college until this particular Saturday when she came from a Seminar in Nakuru. She must have seen some saddening scene there. After picking her from the bus stop, she came straight to the house where a few college mates were catching up on random stories… As expected, everyone started dispersing to allow us time to talk. Mum asked the bunch of guys and a few girls to stay put. She had carried with her several boxes of Condoms (male and female) and literature on HIV and STD’s. I have never sunk my head under my seat like that day. She went ahead preaching HIV and the risks associated to us. After the lengthy lecture, complete with demonstration on how to wear the condoms properly, and giving all of us a pack each, she dismissed everyone and went straight to the kitchen to make my brother and me a proper meal, since we had thinned! I don’t know what my friends made of that, mostly I was just embarrassed; for someone who was seeking elective office in student politics it was quite something. Never mind, I used it that incident for my campaign anyway.
Several years back, when I was in primary school, our farm house used to host several relatives on an ongoing basis. An aunt, Dad’s sister became very ill at some point. She spent lots of time in hospital, and at home bedridden. I remember Mum once suggested that she be taken to hospital and checked for HIV; my late Grandmother and Dad almost ate mum alive. As it turned out, aunty had gotten the virus from her husband who used to travel a lot. I think he was an Agricultural Extension Officer or something like that. After the husband’s death, Dad was so annoyed; he said it at the funeral that the guy had infected the sister with HIV. I didn’t know much about HIV as much then. Aunty became so sick; she went through all the stages of HIV, from diarrhoea, to boils, to literary becoming a mad woman. Mum looked scared most of the time that from her fear that someone at home could catch disease; she allocated everyone their own stuff, even cups and plates. I remember mine was a white mug with black stripes across… You should have seen me swear I was never going to touch a girl back then… whatever happened to that…
‘I think Mum didn’t understand it much either, and I believe at this point she must have resolved to understand and help HIV victims.’
Generally I believe families around the country, and world afar need to play a very critical role in creating awareness on HIV, Relationships and Sex. If people spoke about such matters freely and with certainty we could realize awareness and prevention from a very young age. Although children learn about AIDS in school, from their friends and through the media in general, parents have a very important job in helping their children really understand AIDS and how not to get it. One of the most important things you can do is to make your values about sex clear to your children. Talking with them about your expectations for them; being able to talk with your child about HIV/AIDS means you need to be comfortable talking about sexuality. The only way to stop AIDS from spreading is by teaching people to protect themselves. Anyone who practices unsafe sex is at risk for the disease.
I have taken some serious lessons from the experiences around me, lessons from my mother and from observing. Ideally, I would not practice unsafe sex, possibly abstain and wait for marriage (cough) but I also know the will to stop some things is hard. I chose to keep one partner, hoping that I am the only one too. I take quarterly HIV tests, something that started as a self awareness plan, but which has become routine from the numerous times I have visited.
I fear everyday with the drama unfolding in Nairobi. With the people in the limelight in so much sex scandal, drama, what about those we meet regularly on our streets, the restaurant, the office reception… Be careful… you never know who’s got this thing.