The bottom line on HIV among couples


Campaigns for awareness are always laudable, but how disappointing it truly is to have one on HIV/AIDS amongst couples. The devastation to the innocent party is immeasurable, especially where children are concerned. The stress and expense of treatment is yet another assault; the inevitable end has led many to suicide.

We do know, whether we live in Timbuktu, Nairobi or New York, that infidelity is rampant. With the advent of the mobile phone (as much a blessing to families, businesses and travellers, as to the promiscuous) we can no longer rely on faithful partners even to be where they’ve said they will be at an appointed time.

The prevalence of cheating is now such that there is a medical front working on scientific means to explain its “naturalness”!

Whether the predisposition is there or not, the only difference between other animals and humans remains our ability to reason, to decide, and to discipline ourselves –and fidelity is just that: a decision to discipline ourselves to remaining true to our chosen partner, for better or for worse. Infidelity is a choice. Since 1986, when HIV/AIDS gained international attention, it has severally been a deadly one.

In Kenya, where polygamy is a norm and the youth’s lack of identity is such that they find it easiest and ‘coolest’ to embrace that of the western countries (whose lives they track daily via television and other media) infidelity and promiscuity are less a question of ‘why’ but that of ‘when’ they will occur. We forget that in the West, they are neither too reluctant nor too lazy to use the facility of divorce, and they have more integrity about ending one relationship before embarking in earnest upon another.

In Kenya, divorce is not common, and it is curiously more of a scandal to be divorced, than to have multiple partners!

In these days where marriage is more of a formality than a solid commitment (indeed, the average married Kenyan male will refer to a ‘formal’ wife and an ‘other’,) the condition of fidelity is almost devoid of standing.

Men do not like confrontation, but they do like to have their fingers in several pies at once. “Why eat hamburgers all your life,” I heard an acquaintance once say, “when there are cheeseburgers, and chicken fingers and curry and salads?” I was happy to put that argument under the heading “MEN”  with a sigh… until I had an appalling conversation with a beautiful young woman who guilelessly told me about how she was having an affair with a married man during the week, to finance her weekends with her “true love” and “real boyfriend.”

I felt, in both of these situations that HIV/AIDS wasn’t a pressing concern, and understood immediately how important it is not to assume. I thought of the girls and boys coming up behind this generation, for whom, I fervently hope, asking about one another’s status will be commonplace.

We suffer so many ills in Africa, that we could, and should get rid of those that are unnecessary, and HIV/AIDS within partnerships is one of these. True, getting tested is an emotional roller-coaster –but doesn’t your reason scream: “It’s better to KNOW!!!” With VCTs around the corner, offering free testing, does anyone really have a good excuse not to step in?

I do not judge why anyone would or should cheat, or the reverse. I only ask that those who are being promiscuous exercise the minimum care for such high risk behaviour. Indelible truths are that HIV leads to AIDS. Infecting someone with the disease, is committing murder. Save yourself, and save your loved ones.

1)    Know your status AND
2)    Know that of your partner OR
3)    Use a condom
4)    Use a condom, PLEASE

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