Lean on Me in partnership with African Gender and Media Initiative launched a campaign to end forced and coerced sterilization of women living with HIV to mark this years’ world AIDS day at Kisumu Sports Ground. This vice was evidenced by a report by African Gender and Media Initiative after a study and a launch of @Robbed of Choice, a documentary of forced and coerced sterilization of 40 women living with HIV.
The report makes shocking reading, some women find their husbands signing the medical papers, allowing doctors to perform the irreversible procedure to tie their fallopian tubes. Others unwittingly sign documents thrust in front of them during the chaos of labour, only to later discover what they had signed up to.
Several of the women interviewed reported being mistreated by the health care workers trained to support them. They face a barrage of abuse. Some doctors say ‘It is an offence for women who are HIV positive to have children’. Some women even refuse to sign consent but they are sterilized anyway. Many of the women coerced or forced into sterilization report finding themselves ostracised cast out from their martial homes with the double burden of infertility and their HIV status. Some of these women are afraid of getting into relationships because they know their spouses my leave them should they find out that they cannot have babies..
According to the 2007 Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey nearly one out of every ten pregnant women in Kenya is infected with HIV. Children less than 15 years of age account for 16 percent of all HIV infections; most of these infections were acquired through mother-to-child transmission. However, the chances of HIV transmission from mother to baby can be virtually eliminated through use of anti-retro viral drugs during pregnancy and labour, and by delivering the baby via Caesarian.
During discussions with those who visited Lean on Me stand, it came out clearly that forced and coerced sterilization of women living with HIV will bring down the gains made in global plan to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV. Lean on Me Executive Director together with her staff used the opportunity to educate women living with HIV on their rights and especially sexual and reproductive health rights; and also the available family planning options for women living with HIV.
50 T-shirts and 70 caps were distributed during this day.