Kenya: Life goes on - despite the HIV diagnosis
In February 2013, John Oluoch suddenly became very ill. At the hospital he was diagnosed with HIV, and with this knowledge he returned home. There he was quickly deteriorating and many of his closest family members abandoned him. They considered him as already dead. But today he's working again and life has returned almost to normal, thanks to the committed effort of Wycliffe Kidera who is active as a paralegal in the Diakonia programme Lake Victoria Rights, working for livelihood and rights of people living in the Lake Victoria region.
Lived in denial
"After being diagnosed with HIV, I returned home in a state of shock . How could I be experiencing this? I just wanted to deny everything , and did not even try to get access to antiretroviral drugs or ay other treatment," says John Oluoch.
Abandoned by family members
John, who lives in the Kenyan community Nyakweri on Mfangano Island, rapidly became worse, and when his two wives (polygamy is part of the tradition) found out that he had HIV, they abandoned him:
"My first wife left with all our belongings and the other, with whom I have three children, abandoned me too. They were so sure that I would die," says John .
By March 2013, he could neither stand on his legs or eat. He was taken to his mother's house to die. One of his older brothers came to visit:
"What happened then shocked me tremendously. My brother told me straight up that he could invest any of his money in my care or pay for medicines to a person who was going to die anyway" says John.
The local change maker and paralegal Wycliffe Kidera
Luckily, another of John's brothers, Augo, came to visit. He decided to contact Wycliffe Kidera who is chairperson of Mfangano Island Paralegal Network, which is part of the Diakonia programme Lake Victoria Rights. Wycliffe came to visit and then took John to a health clinic. There he immediately got intravenous drip and was admitted.
"That evening Wycliffe came with food for me and he stayed all night by my side. In the morning he called his wife who came with breakfast."
The health clinic does not have staff present at night and food is not included in the care, but must be delivered to the patients by relatives or friends.
With proper care John returned to life
"In the afternoon I felt infinitely better. I got some medications and was discharged. But before I left the clinic Wycliffe made sure that I was enrolled in a free medical care programme for HIV-affected, and he paid the bill for my care at the clinic."
The coming weeks Wycliffe took John to his weekly visits to the clinic and made sure he got medicines and food.
"It is thanks to him that I can walk again! In May 2013 I was able to go out fishing again and now I have started farming as well," says John.
Now John's second wife and the three children have returned home. The wife is also HIV positive and participates in a care programme too. John marvels at te fact that a for him unknown person was so committed and saved his life.
Before, John and his family had no knowledge of how a person with HIV can be treated, nor that one is entitled to medical care. Suffering from HIV was asevere stigma. But the change maker Wycliffe was not afraid to talk about the disease and he also knew that there was help.