2005-10-25-Jemima Khan visits Kenya for Unicef

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2005-10-25-Jemima Khan visits Kenya for Unicef

 

As Unicef warns 18 million children in sub-Saharan Africa could be orphaned by Aids by the end of 2010, Jemima Khan, a goodwill ambassador for the UN charity, tells of her experiences meeting people with HIV in Kenya.

Children have been neglected for far too long as the victims of Aids and a lot more needs to be done.

The fact is that you can look at all the statistics and you can see the facts and figures, but nothing hits home like the individual examples.

What struck me most is the stigma attached to Aids.

We met a little boy called Peter who kept asking "Do they know that I'm HIV positive [talking about us]? Why are they still talking to us? Why do they want to shake my hand and spend the afternoon with me?

We were walking through Kenyatta National Hospital and the nurse very casually pointed out a point on the fourth four balcony and said every week a woman jumps off this balcony when she finds out she is HIV positive.

There is so much stigma.

The children from one of the homes we visited in Isiolo had been attacked with stones because many people think of Aids as a curse.

Many children are forced to take on the responsibilities and concerns of a mother and a father.

Often they take on much more than the normal concerns that most mothers have because they are looking after not only sick parents, but later on siblings who are also sick and dying.

One of the really important aims of this project is to keep the mothers alive, which is not a difficult task.

The drugs are available - they are there. They just need to be more accessible.

There was a surprisingly high degree of understanding of what Aids is and how it is caught. That is what I saw in Kenya.

What there is not is sufficient facilities for testing. There is no point knowing about Aids if you don't know that you have it.

You don't know that you can pass it on, you don't know that you can transmit it to your child and you don't know that you can be treated.

Obviously there is a need for more information, but equally there is so much of a need for more treatment, especially for children.


 


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