Campus Life, Alcohol, Sex and HIV: Lessons from Marion’s Life

A story is told of a Marion, a 20 year old now and in her 3rd year studies in on of the top University in Nairobi. You see, Marion comes from a well-off family, she has never had to wait a day to get that dress or heels that she saw in one of the malls along Thika Road. Marion is every (wo)man’s goal if we talk sexy. She is curvaceous in all the right places, she has her own money(well, her parents’, but you get it) and she is the nicest person you’ll ever meet. Did I mention her booty? Marion attended private boarding Group of Schools since the age of 4. All she knew was School and home. Her closest friends were her siblings and the various kids from their various neighbors they had over the years. Her parents are the typical workaholics of Nairobi. Provided they pay for whatever their kids need, that should compensate for the almost non-existent personal time with the kids. Marion couldn’t wait to turn 18 and join a Campus far away from home, somewhere where it’ll just be her and her own house. She got a one bedroom in Rongai and this was it now, time to LIVE. No curfews, just her and whatever she feels like doing. She had her first boyfriend, Kevo, just two weeks after joining Campus. Kevo is a “Professional Student”, those guys you’ll find in Campus when you join, do your 5 year degree and still leave them in Campus. It was time to make experiences, partying all night, road trips, you name it, afterall YOLO, that’s what Campus Life is supposed to be like. Marion was cautious at first, of course she knew a thing or two about safe sex and for the first month or so, she used protection, or so she thinks, if her memory serves her right, most of the time she doesn’t remember how she got home. Fast forward to the 2nd Semester, first year still, Kevo moved on, that’s what they do and Marion, even though she was heartbroken, it wasn’t like her to cry over a man, she could get another Kevo in a minute (is that you, beyonce?) and true to that she did. This time ‘wiser’, she never invested her emotions in any man, she just needed someone to hang out with, drive her in her car around, the attention is all she needed and when she felt she wasn’t getting enough, she always had options. Somewhere in her second year, things started getting monotonous or she had done almost anything she wanted to do with her new found freedom. She slowed down and with that she started noticing changes in her body, some unexplained tiredness and fevers now and then. After several visits to the Campus Dispensary, she decided to get the Personal HIV Test Kit. Up to date, she can’t tell how she got the virus, but unlike the other sensational stories out there, Marion was mentally and emotionally mature enough to know what to do next, she didn’t try to find someone to blame, she knew what to do, and that was to get help. She tells her story not for clout but to educate, she understands that HIV is not a death sentence, she’ll live to see her children grow old if she manages it, maybe a cure will come along the way but now all she wants is not to hear another story like hers. When you consider the decisions us the young in our society make, you realize that, as naive as they are made, very few have their future in mind when they should and most of those bad decisions usually involve sex and alcohol. Look at it this way, every decision you make, big or small will probably be the most crucial in the sequence of what will happen next and might have a permanent effect on your life. That alone should make each and every one of us think critically and always with the bigger picture in mind before doing anything just because you can do it. We are a generation that is obsessed with the” YOLO” mantra but in all the wrongs things in life. Have you ever considered that, even though You Only Live Once, you should try to make it count in all the right aspects of life? Someones will say, I’m here for a good time, not a long time, well, we all are, but what happens if your short is the longest around? You’re probably in Campus right now, maybe you’re yet to join a tertiary institution and you just can’t wait to get out there and away from the prying eyes of your folks and a community that won’t hesitate on telling on you if you happen to steal a glance at the local around the corner or shake hands with boy/girl next door for a second longer. You probably can’t wait to get your longtime crush to come for a sleepover, all those lovey dovey sexting you’ve been doing for months now needs to happen ASAP. We were all there. This is for you. For most, sex whenever you want was not something you ever imagined until you get to Campus and all of a sudden you can get laid Monday to Monday if you want. The pressure to rack up the body count and reach your friend with 27 so far, 26.5 of which probably never happened, will be intense, and it gets even worse the older you get. While you are at it, here are some stats for you; UNAID estimates there are 1.5 million Adults and children are living with HIV in Kenya as of 2017. 1.4 Million of those are Adults aged 15 and over. Of that 1.4M, 860,000 are Women and 520,000 Men. According to National AIDS Control Council Kenya HIV Estimates 2018 report, Kenya’s HIV epidemic is geographically diverse, ranging from a prevalence of 21.0% in Siaya County to approximately 0.1% in Wajir County in former North Eastern region as shown below.

HIV prevalence rate in selected populations refers to the percentage of people tested in each group who were found to be infected with HIV.

NACC HIV Estimates 2018
NACC HIV Estimates 2018

Kenya has the joint fourth largest HIV epidemic in the world, alongside Mozambique and Uganda but has shown tremendous prevention success story in the past couple years. More than half (51%) of all new HIV infections in Kenya in 2015 occurred among adolescents and young people (aged 15-24 years), a rapid rise from 29% in 2013. Young women accounted for 33% of the total number of new infections (23,312) in 2015. In comparison, young men accounted for 16% of all new HIV infections (12,464). In 2017 there were approximately 52,800 new infections across all ages; 44,800 among adults aged 15+ years. Of the estimated total new infections, Nairobi contributed 7,159 new infections; Homa Bay (4,558); Kisumu (4,012); Siaya (4,039); and Migori (2,814) that is about 43% of the estimated total new infections. For young people between 15-24 years Homa Bay (1,852), Kisumu (1,630), Siaya (1,641), Migori (1,143), and Nairobi (2,587) had the highest new HIV infections. Young women in the age group 15-24 accounted for a third of all new HIV adult infections. A number of factors contribute to the increasing rate of HIV infection among young people including incorrect perception of HIV risk; and having unprotected sexual intercourse under influence of alcohol or drugs. Enough about the numbers, you get the picture now. Let’s talk Understanding HIV, Partying and Prevention. Here’s one last number, More than half (53%) of the 1.6 million people living with HIV in Kenya are unaware of their HIV status.

Understanding HIV

HIV is a virus spread through certain body fluids that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These special cells help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body. This damage to the immune system makes it harder and harder for the body to fight off infections and some other diseases. Opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS. No effective cure currently exists, but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. The medicine used to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART.  If people with HIV take ART as prescribed, their viral load (amount of HIV in their blood) can become undetectable. If it stays undetectable, they can live long, healthy lives and have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.

Stages of HIV Infection

Stage 1: Acute HIV infection Within 2 to 4 weeks after infection with HIV, people may experience a flu-like illness, which may last for a few weeks. This is the body’s natural response to infection. When people have acute HIV infection, they have a large amount of virus in their blood and are very contagious. But people with acute infection are often unaware that they’re infected because they may not feel sick right away or at all. If you think you have been exposed to HIV through sex or drug use and you have flu-like symptoms, seek medical care and ask for a test to diagnose acute infection. Stage 2: Clinical latency (HIV inactivity or dormancy) This period is sometimes called asymptomatic HIV infection or chronic HIV infection. During this phase, HIV is still active but reproduces at very low levels. People may not have any symptoms or get sick during this time. For people who aren’t taking medicine to treat HIV, this period can last a decade or longer, but some may progress through this phase faster. People who are taking medicine to treat HIV (ART) as prescribed may be in this stage for several decades. It’s important to remember that people can still transmit HIV to others during this phase. However, people who take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load (or stay virally suppressed) have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative sexual partners. At the end of this phase, a person’s viral load starts to go up and the CD4 cell count begins to go down. As this happens, the person may begin to have symptoms as the virus levels increase in the body, and the person moves into Stage 3. Stage 3: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV infection. People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses, called opportunistic illnesses. Without treatment, people with AIDS typically survive about 3 years. Common symptoms of AIDS include chills, fever, sweats, swollen lymph glands, weakness, and weight loss. People are diagnosed with AIDS when their CD4 cell count drops below 200 cells/mm or if they develop certain opportunistic illnesses. People with AIDS can have a high viral load and be very infectious.

How to know if you have HIV

The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your status is important because it helps you make healthy decisions to prevent getting or transmitting HIV.

How can one get HIV?

You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. Most commonly, people get or transmit HIV through sexual behaviors and needle or syringe use.

Only certain body fluids—blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to occur. Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, vagina, penis, and mouth. HIV is spread mainly by

  • Having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom or taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV.
    • For the HIV-negative partner, receptive anal sex (bottoming) is the highest-risk sexual behavior, but you can also get HIV from insertive anal sex (topping).
    • Either partner can get HIV through vaginal sex, though it is less risky for getting HIV than receptive anal sex.
  • Sharing needles or syringes, rinse water, or other equipment (works) used to prepare drugs for injection with someone who has HIV. HIV can live in a used needle up to 42 days depending on temperature and other factors.

Less commonly, HIV may be spread

In extremely rare cases, HIV has been transmitted by

Partying and HIV Prevention

Fact is partying is part of Campus life and nothing is likely to change that. But if we were to kick HIV out, it’s all on us as youths to do what is needed to ensure there are no new infections. As a young person, there are two things that will be of greater impact in managing and reducing the HIV epidemic; We encourages everyone to:

  • Get educated. HIV education and awareness is an important component of HIV prevention. We have given you the basic facts about HIV, now you need to know about testing, and prevention.
  • Get tested for HIV. Everyone who is sexually active should get tested for HIV at least once every year. This does not only ensure you know where you stand but also enables to protect yourself and others.

HIV Testing

HIV testing is designed to get people who are unaware of their status, or those at risk of HIV, tested and linked to HIV prevention, treatment and care services. Men are less likely to test for HIV than women. This is mostly attributed to fear of stigmatization or criminalization (in the case of LGBTI), or fears over HIV test confidentiality or what next if the result turn up positive. Good news is HIV is not a death sentence, now you can live a healthy life and still be sexually active if you take your ART Medicines right as mentioned earlier. Also, HIV self-testing kits are now cheaply and easily accessible. For example, You can order for on on your phone via the myDawa App

I’ve Tested and I’m Positive, what next…

At this point, you should always remember that you’re better off than when you didn’t know. Now you have your future and that of your loved ones in control. The first thing you need to do is visit a VCT center for counselling and medication. If you’re infected and it happens that you are in a relationship or can think of a person(s) you’ve had unprotected sexual intercourse with, be the bigger person and speak to them about it and let them decide what they’ll have to do next. Remember, everyone has a right to decide what they should do with their body, that much is true, but when another person’s health is involved, it stops being all about you. In some cases, it probably wasn’t exactly your fault that you got infected, but knowingly transmitting the HIV virus is both a moral and criminal offence, never and by all means ever go to the extend of knowingly spreading the virus for whatever reason, nothing will ever justify it, yes, it’ll hurt like nothing else when you find out that you were betrayed especially if it was someone you trusted with your life, but always choose to be the better, bigger person. You’ll be thankful for it later.

HIV Prevention

So you took the bold step and tested yourself, whichever the result, it’s now upon you to make sure you don’t contract the virus if you’re negative or infect others if you are positive. The most effective ways of preventing HIV spread is either by Zipping up or Wrapping up.  By zipping up I mean abstaining, no sexual activity at all. But that’s easier said than done, we are sexual beings, sex is part of life. Most people will have sex at some point in their lives, so learning about HIV prevention and knowing how to have safer sex is important. Using condoms REALLY lowers your risk of getting HIV. If you’re going to have sex, using condoms every single time is the best way to protect yourself from HIV. What if Condom is not an option? There’s a daily pill you can take, PrEP (PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It’s a pill you take once a day that can help you prevent HIV) that can help prevent HIV. But before opting for PrEP, talk to your doctor or nurse to tell you if PrEP is right for you. Pills and Condoms can’t do? Well, the only other way is of preventing HIV is by being a decent human being, get into a relationship and don’t fuck around with other people. And while at it, also ensure your partner is on the same page. Otherwise you will be exposed. Some sexual activities are safer than others when it comes to getting HIV. These activities are “no risk” — they’ve never caused a reported case of HIV:

  • masturbating
  • touching your partner’s genitals
  • rubbing your bodies together (dry humping)
  • kissing
  • having oral sex with a condom or dental dam
  • using clean sex toys

These activities are “lower risk” — they’ve only caused a few reported cases of HIV (out of millions):

  • “French” or deep kissing (if the person with HIV has sores or bleeding in their mouth)
  • vaginal sex with a condom and/or PrEP
  • anal sex with a condom and/or PrEP
  • oral sex without a condom or dental dam

These activities are “high risk” — millions of people get HIV this way:

  • vaginal sex without a condom or PrEP
  • anal sex without a condom or PrEP

It’s easier for HIV to get into your body if you have sores, cuts, or openings in your skin that semen (cum), vaginal fluids, or blood may get into. So don’t have sex if you have a herpes outbreak or other infections. Having other STDs makes you more likely to get HIV, so it’s a good idea to get tested for STDs regularly. Most times we tend to eyetest (they doesn’t look like they haveve HIV) the people we know. But you can never be so sure. Again, always use protection. In cases where you really couldn’t do anything, say rape cases, see a doctor as early as possible and ask for PEP which stands for post-exposure prophylaxis. It’s a series of pills you start taking after you’ve been exposed to HIV that lowers your chances of getting HIV. You have to start PEP within 72 hours (3 days), after you were exposed to HIV for it to work. The sooner you start it, the better. Every hour counts, so if you think you were exposed to HIV, call your nurse or doctor or go to the emergency room right away. PEP is only for emergencies — it doesn’t take the place of using condoms or PrEP. There’s no vaccine that protects against HIV, but lots of people are working on making one.

Parting Shot…

An HIV infection doesn’t necessarily means that you have AIDS, AIDS only happens if you let HIV untreated for a prolonged time. Sexual Education is Key in Preventing HIV, talk about HIV with your Peers, siblings and partner(s). The moment you educate yourself, you’re almost on your way in avoiding HIV. For everyone who does not know their status yet currently, hopefully, you’ll take the courageous step to walk to the nearest VCT center. This decision will obviously take all the strength you have in you. It will be hard but after it, you’ll be relieved to know your status because it’s will be the first day of the rest of your life, one worry less, and a chance to either to start a healthy sex journey from there on or to start getting your health in check immediately. Let’s talk alcohol and sex, there’s no fun in drinking yourself silly, alcohol is meant to make life a bit more fun but the moment you can’t control yourself, it’s no longer fun. So, brothers and sisters, know your alcohol limits, and never drink a sip past, always space out and always carry a Condom on you, male or female, it doesn’t really matter, remember you probably don’t know when you’ll get laid especially now when everyone is probably not looking for something serious. Be on the safe side, drink responsibly, after that, everything becomes easier to control. Lastly, there is no nobility in having the highest body count in terms of sexual partners you have had. It is just another unhealthy, unwise and stupid societal standard. If you think having a higher body count is a measure of your beauty/handsomeness, then you’ve already lost it. Strive to be a better man, woman and a better partner.

Related Articles