Day 5 – The Effort is Worth Every Second

Today, a group of fifteen year-old girls told us:

  1. If you sleep with a virgin it will cure you of HIV
  2. Sleeping with an older man can also cure you of HIV
  3. You can contract HIV by sharing cutting tools

We’d become used to teaching cricket and HIV at Kenyan primary schools. You get used to being mobbed, doling out high fives and marshalling hundreds of kids into cricket drills and chanting the ABCs: ‘Abstain! Be Faithful! Condom!’ It’s intense, but invariably uplifting.

Our first visit to a secondary was a more salutary experience. When the lads strutted onto the field and casually launched into backflips you could practically smell the testosterone, and the girls were young women, a mixture of teenaged coyness and bravado. The abstraction of Kenya’s HIV problem was suddenly very real.

Despite the incredible advances in treatment – properly treated, the virus becomes undetectable, untransmittable, and the infected person can live a completely normal life – HIV still inspires terror. Two told us that their parents would beat them if they befriended an HIV+ person. Others spoke of fear of discrimination, loneliness and stigma. Some said they would kill themselves if they caught HIV.

Mental health is as much an issue here as it is back home. The idea of contracting HIV by sharing cutting tools was confusing at first. Did they mean by eating together, sharing a knife, that kind of thing? No, as it turns out, self-harm is prevalent here too. It’s easy to think that whatever we do won’t be enough. When you hear these stories, it’s easy to sink down with them. But you can go the other way too; use what you learn in order to empower these young people and give them the tools they need to get on better.  The local coaches keep telling us our work makes a real difference. The limited impact studies CWB have managed to do back that up. Even if it’s only impacting one child a session or a day, it still makes the effort worth every second.

Phil

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One Comment

  1. Jules
    September 27, 2019

    Really interesting and thought provoking post, illuminating on many fronts. Have enjoyed reading the blog posts so far, and a massive go well as you head into the second week. x

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