Police on the Frontline against HIV and AIDS
By Eric Kilongi | May 29, 2014
Sergeant Pauline Wanjiru has dedicated her life to protecting and defending the safety of Kenyans. But when she learned she was HIV-positive, she began channeling her protective instincts into taking a stand against one of the largest barriers to HIV/AIDS prevention – stigma and discrimination.
Sgt. Wanjiru shares her personal HIV journey from acceptance to advocacy in a new documentary from the Kenyan news channel, NTV. The film highlights the valiant efforts of Sgt. Wanjiru, Inspector Mlalanaro of Mombasa Island Division, and Corporal Peter Ooyi who educate and counsel their peers and communities about HIV/AIDS.
“I decided to speak about my status openly and publicly because I could see my other officers who had been infected and the way they were being treated,” Sgt. Wanjiru says in the film.
Sgt. Wanjiru said she is not ashamed of her status, but can vividly recall feeling overwhelmed and depressed when she first learned she was HIV-positive.
“I almost collapsed,” Sgt. Wanjiru said. “I had lived a good life and I thought, ‘Why me?’”
At her lowest moments, she admits she even thought about suicide. But that all changed once she received counseling.
“The [man] who had tested me was so supportive. After that, I came for counseling and he held my hand.”
Sgt. Wanjiru said the counselor’s support helped her see that it was possible to live a long and healthy life with HIV. When she disclosed her status to her husband and family, instead of shunning her, as she feared, they embraced her wholeheartedly.
Fear of stigma and discrimination are oftentimes born from misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and prevent many people from learning about or disclosing their HIV status. But thanks to the valiant efforts of peer educators and counselors around the world, that perception is changing.
To hear more testimonies from inspiring Kenyan police officers like Sgt. Wanjiru, be sure to watch the rest of the video documentary and check out Sgt. Wanjiru's photo story below.
Created with flickr slideshow.
Eric Kilongi is EGPAF's senior communications officer, based in Kenya.