SURVIVING BEYOND DISINHERITANCE
Beatrice Jemurungu was born 47years ago in the western side of Kenya. At the age of 17 she was married to a man that she thought he would be the perfect match. By the age of 21, she was already a mother of two. Being a housewife she solely depended with her husband who was working as a clerk in an Indian firm in Nairobi. As time went by her husband started drinking and having extra marital affairs. As a result Jemurungu often suffered physical abuse as well as negligence from her then husband. By the end of 1984 they divorced and Beatrice opted to live single.
In 1985 she fell in love to another man who promised her support to raise her two children. As they continued living the man started being unwell. In 1986 she accompanied her husband to the hospital where he was treated and sent home. Ten years later she had already given birth to two more children. In 1996 Jemurungu and her husband fell unwell and sorted medical attention at MP Shah Hospital.
In the hospital some tests were conducted but none of them was told the result of the tests done. In 2000 both of them had multiple opportunistic infection and were referred to KNH (Kenyatta national Hospital) for further ‘treatment’. After running a number of tests no result was given.
In 2006 her husband’s health deteriorated and was admitted at MP Shah Hospital,after which his condition worsened 2007 and was later admitted at mbagathi and later succumb. That’s when Beatrice knew her husband’s cause of death. This news brought shock, disbelieve, denial as well as totally worsening her condition even further.
According to the Luo community, Jemurungu was to be inherited through sexual rituals to one of the husband’s brother. This was the only option she had at the moment. But this would not go well with her as she refused to be inherited. As a result, she was disowned of all her husband property as well as her matrimonial items. She was left with nothing not even beddings; and she started begging for shelter clothing and food. In all these she never thought of taking a HIV test.
Due to excessive stress her condition worsened and this brought in a lot of stigma from her in-laws as well her parents plus other extended family.
In 2008, her last-born daughter 4 years old by then,fell sick, and She was taken to Riruta Health center for check up. After examination and running of some tests, Jemurungu was given a referral to lea ToTo for further check up. At Lea ToTo, Jemurungu was counseled that her child needed to be done some test including HIV test. Soon after, the result showed that her daughter was HIV +VE. This broke her heart but she was encouraged to take a test as well to be able to deal with any further doubt. With this courage she went for a test and unfortunately she too turned HIV +VE.
Initial CD4 count was 75 while her weight was 45kgs. This prompted the doctors to put her on ARVS immediately. At the health facility she was put on feeding program and she would collect some food supplement on monthly basis for duration of 9 months. When she joined the support group at Kawangware she was encouraged by the members and received psychosocial support. As a result her CD4 count raised steadily form 75, 115, 210,315, 430 and lastly 358. By December 2012 viral road test, the result revealed that the viral road was undetectable.
Currently Jemurungu is in fountain of joy support group in Kawangware, and her two young children are in a sponsorship program. She survives through casual job that is never guaranteed. However, her motivation came when she started drama club with other HIV+VE group members. In their drama, they act on dangers of HIV, Burden of OVCs, Importance of Family Planning and HIV & AIDs awareness.
Life has taught her that no matter how big the storm or the problem, there is hope. This is found through psychosocial support for all that are infected with the virus. She urges those who already know their HIV status to avoid re-infection and/or getting infected. She says she is now an ambassador of creating awareness on human rights to women in relation to HIV & AIDS.