Somali Keeps Her AIDS Secret Despite Wedding Plans

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Somali woman in Kenya faces an arranged wedding knowing she could infect her husband with HIV-AIDS. She contracted the disease through unsafe anal sex to preserve her virginity.

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Fear of Being Shunned

She doesn't disclose her status to anyone for the fear of being shunned by her family and even the community at large.

For the time being, her boyfriend pays for her medication. Sometimes the hospital dispenses antiretroviral medication free of charge.

Sophia worries about infecting her husband, but for now he remains something of an abstraction.

"I don't know much about him but my father says that he is coming in August. This will be our first meeting," she said.

Dr. Nduku Kilonzo, director for Liverpool Voluntary Testing Center, a care and treatment center for people infected with HIV-AIDS in Nairobi, said HIV-AIDS messages should be clearer about the dangers that poorly educated young women such as Sophia face when they adopt anal intercourse as a means of preserving virginity.

Aisha Hajji, a sociologist at the University of Nairobi, agrees. She said the use of anal sex to preserve notions of virginity goes far beyond the Somali community and that too few young people understand the dangers.

Sophia quit school at 11 to help her mother in the shop. "If my parents had taken me to school, I could have learned the risks of anal sex," she said in Swahili.

She said her boyfriend was the one to suggest anal sex as a way to safeguard her virginity, but it's also something she learned from friends.

"It's a common practice," she said. "Many of my friends have anal sex. We live in a secular country. They not only do it with their Christian boyfriends but the Somali and Muslims boyfriends who should know better."

Fatuma Noor is an award-winning Kenyan journalist who works for The Star Newspaper in Nairobi. She covers refugee and women issues.

For more information:

National AIDS Control Council in Kenya:

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