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The Day I Found Out my House Girl was HIV Positive

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Now, today’s post has been inspired by a dilemma many parents face, with regard to their house girls.

Over the last couple of weeks, the issue of a house girl’s health has been coming up in many a conversation in my circles –at work, in my chama, on twitter, on facebook, in church, on FM stations….And that’s why I decided to do a post about it.

Specifically, the house girls’ HIV status.

Some of the issues that have been raised include: Is it okay for you to make a prospective house girl undergo some certain medical tests before you employ her? Does this infringe on her rights? Or, if she has a persistent cough –is it okay to make her undergo a HIV test, or a TB test as you suspect the worst (you’re paying for it anyway)? Is it okay for you to occasionally go through her stuff in her handbag or suitcase in search of I-don’t-know-what (most likely ARVs or TB drugs)? And what would you do if you indeed found the drugs that you were searching for? Would this scare you enough to fire her immediately or would you keep her on? And if you decide to fire her, does this constitute discrimination?

And the responses to these questions have been many. But they have almost all been the same.

Many parents, both moms and dads with young children wouldn’t think twice about hiring or keeping on a HIV positive house girl. They would let her go immediately. That even though the house girl were good with her work, they would just let her go, ‘na sio kwa ubaya’. They say that they just cannot take any chances where their kids, their most precious possessions are concerned. “Accidents can happen anytime…you just never know…,” many have said.

And when the issue of human rights and discrimination come up, I have heard: “Theoretically we know what the law says, but when it comes down to practice, that’s different. The risk is too much…my child comes first then the law and human rights or whatever else follow.”

TABITHA ONYINGE, a mother of three had a personal experience with a HIV positive house girl and she shares that experience.

Faith, in her late 20s, was brought to me by a friend. She was a light skinned heavily built lady who had been living with her elder sister in Mathare. She was separated from her husband at the time of our meeting. Being an orphan, she married early to escape the hardships she faced at home, but the marriage did not work out.

The then single mother of a four-year-old daughter came to work for me in early September, 2000, in my last few weeks of pregnancy. Other than the spots on her skin, you could not suspect a thing about her failing health. She was also poor of hearing. Her work was super, although she was quite slow.

A month after having my baby, Faith developed Herpes Zoster. For one week, I nursed her at home after taking her for treatment. She was weak, but maintained her good sense of humour. My sister, a medic, who had all along suspected that Faith’s immunity was suppressed (polite medical reference to a person with HIV), was now almost certain that Faith was HIV positive, and already having AIDS. She ran me through the risks of having a HIV-infected person as a minder of my baby, talking about possible infections such as TB or HIV.

A decision had to be made, quickly. My husband left it all to me. My first move was to ask Faith if she knew anything about her illness. She opened up and shared with me a detailed history of her HIV status; including details of when and how she might have been infected. Oh, it was sad. She suspected that a neighbour of her sister, who had abused her while in her teenage, could have infected her with the virus. She did not think it was her ex-husband. Her daughter was also HIV positive.

I have to confess that I had loved Faith from the first time I met her. She was soft spoken, obedient, kind hearted, trustworthy and submissive. She also had good knowledge of motherhood and child raising, and would give me advice from time to time. (She is the one who informed me that I was in labour, when I had no clue about what was happening to me). She carried herself so maturely, like an elder sister.

After our talk, Faith volunteered to leave if I felt uncomfortable having her around. That almost tore my heart apart. But again, I had to think about my family – my adorable newborn baby boy, my husband and myself. Anything could happen accidentally in the kitchen or anywhere else. Faith understood my anxiety.

I had noticed that Faith was very careful with everything she handled, including the laundry. She, for instance, never mixed her clothes with ours. She had not started taking care of the baby yet, but she would soon have to, as I was returning to work any time. Making a decision was hard. I struggled and battled, but in the end, I decided to keep her. How could I send her away when she was this good to us?

We talked about the risks involved in having her around, and came up with ways to manage the baby, and the family. She was not to kiss or bathe, or perform any kind of first aid that involved blood, on the baby. She was to be careful not to cut or bruise herself or let her blood come in contact with any article that we used to feed. The rules were many. She understood and adhered to them. I washed my baby after work, and prepared his feed before leaving home to reduce risks.

By the way, Faith was strongly built and did not lose weight, even after the Herpes infection. Other than the black spots all over her body, she would have migraines regularly. Remember ARVs were not available then, so she was not on any medication for AIDS.

One day I came home from work and found her having a bad migraine. We bought the usual painkillers, which calmed the headache for a few hours only. This went on for two days before I decided to take her to the doctor. After examining her, the doctor called me aside and advised me to send Faith to her family immediately.

“Do not even return with her to your house. If possible, put her on a bus from here,” the doctor said.

I heeded. Faith’s nephew traveled with her to Ahero, that evening. A day later, her sister called to say that Faith had passed out at the Ahero bus stop after alighting from the bus, and was pronounced dead in hospital, less than 30 minutes later. I was sad… I still feel sad remembering her and how she died.

Faith had worked for us for one year.

You may Also Like: 12 Questions to Ask when Interviewing a House Girl

And that is Tabitha’s story. A unique one I must admit. Thanks Tabitha for sharing. So what’s your story? Would you retain your house girl if you found out she was HIV positive? (See other reader’s views on this in the comments section below. They are very insightful).

You can also read more insightful articles about house girls here

Mummy Tales is a blog dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of maternal and newborn health, as well as various issues surrounding motherhood and women. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Follow Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK INSTAGRAM TWITTER 

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68 COMMENTS

  1. This are the things that you wouldn’t say what you’d do unless you are faced with the situation. It takes a mum with a huge heart to keep a house girl who is HIV positive. It also takes a gentle soul to allow her to handle their stuff without getting jittery and all. Kudos to Tabitha.

  2. Really, as long as you have talked about her HIV status, and the rules around the kids, I see no reason why one should not hire a househelp who has HIV. We have had several in our home, maybe because my mum being a medic understood everything that it entails…….really, its no different. Its like saying you would not have an HIV positive sister, auntie, mum hang around your kids and help with their care

  3. To answer to your answer, No. I would not. My spirit would just not settle. And by the way, I have nothing against people infected with HIV. I have nursed one, till her last breath. I remember my mum worrying that I could have picked it from the patient, who was like my sister. It is from her anxiety, her fears, her restlessness any time I coughed, complained of a headache or even the usual period cramps, that I would not what to go through the same. But I know the writer of that story. Her spirit compares to very few. So it is totally expected that she chose to keep her house help. Kudos Tabbie.

  4. Wow! That is quite a story coming from a lady with a big heart for sure. That is a tough decision to have to make. While I too have nothing against HIV positive people and totally understand the level of risk, and that the virus wouldnt just spread that easily from them going about their household chores, children on the other hand have no idea what HIV is. I therefore feel that a decision must be made in their best interest. They wouldnt know how to protect themselves if exposed in whatever situation, accidents do happen as someone said earlier. In a similar situation, I think I would try find her a job or something to do around adults and not children. You can never be100% sure that they would have your child’s best interest at heart, no matter how good they are. They do go through their moments too, its not an easy burden to bear, so I wouldnt see it as the same as having a HIVpositive family member because the level of trust is different. My thoughts..

  5. @Wash thanks for sharing your thoughts. I wonder -would you let her know that youÆre letting her go or getting her another job because of her status, or would you cover it up by giving her a different reason?

  6. Let me say it takes a great heart to live and accept a housegal with such a condition. My mum once had one who was HIV+ and she was excellent and coped very well with my niece(kid sister who is a special kid coz she is Autistic). Just like Tabitha she had her set of rules to follow when handling the baby as mostly thats what she was mainly doing as special kids need close attention. She was very attentive and caring in everything she did with the baby. She has raised the baby until recently (5 yrs) when the kid was enrolled in a boarding special school for special education. She was precious, understanding because nowadays not many househelps will withstand kids with special needs. This housegirl taught the kid to feed, cloth, walk, and be independent. Later after the baby joined school my mum helped her secure a casual employment in government offices as a cleaner which is helping her raise her 2 lovely kids.

  7. @EmilySpeck From your comment, maybe it depends of the personality, attitudes and kind of relationship that both the employer and the housegirl have? I think your mom and the househelp had a good understanding of each other. Glad it went well for all parties involved. Your mom is one of a kind.

  8. I don’t know what to say… I don’t know what i would do… not the slightest idea. All i can say is Tabitha is strong .. very very strong.
    Meanwhile, my mum once had a househelp who came home on Sunday evening after attending a crusade and went like ‘I have been healed’ and mum goes like kweli u were sick? Honey goes like ‘yes, i had HIV’ Needless to say, when we woke up on Monday morning, she was not there… she had been deported to sijui Embu on the first Riakanau bus. That was a looooong time ago, almost 15 years when knowledge on HIV was really scanty. I hope now we can react different.

  9. As a christian the bible tells us to bear with one another gently, with patience and love. Ephesians 2 You can retain her and maybe get a new one for the crucial chores like feeding and bathing the baby. Kudos to Tabitha we need more like her in our society.

  10. It is not easy to make such a decision of either retaining or sacking a nice housegal who is HIV positive. I remember i also had a nice gal from the Embu but who was very mature and had TB. She didnt have HIV but my knowledge about TB made me insist that she had to undergo a sputum test after a persistent cough that kept recurring in her even after treatment. The sputum test confirmed our fears. She was put on the TB drugs for the 8 months (then which has since reduced to 6 mths) and she recovered and regained her health. TB is a wasting disease and makes patients lose weight even when they are not HIV positive. She had to be isolated from my daughters in the first weeks of treatment not to infect them and we all had to be tested lest we had picked up TB which is airborne.

  11. Its very touching, however i dont think anyone can just take in a girl whose HIV positive.
    There’s an incident where the househelp intentionally infected a kid simply coz they had a dissagreement with the lady of the house.
    I dont think i can do it. Not when my childs life is at risk.

  12. Takes a big heart to do what Tabitha did. My heart is big but I’m not sure it’s big enough anymore. try to imagine myself at work and my househelp at home …I see a mad me. first aid cannot be first aid if it waits for me in the evening …this is very tricky. very insightful post.

  13. People like Tabitha are few and far between and the difference they make in the lives of those around them is immeasurable. Through her experience we can learn a lot about the true meaning of charity (love) and living what we preach!

  14. @Elaine @Fanne Thanks for your honesty. These are the questions and situations that make one really search themselves deep down in their souls. @Josie yes such people are not many and I too know your story so I know that you and Tabitha are one of a kind.

  15. God bless you Tabitha and others who lead by example… one that I hope I can follow when confronted with the same situation.

    Personally, someone being HIV positive and taking care of my baby isn’t as scary as being TB positive. I believe education around HIV is enough to prevent any infection not only to your child but from your family members to the child minder (remember we too could be HIV positive). My concerns with TB are totally different. While I may not fire someone who’s TB or HIV positive, I would give the TB positive one time to access treatment and have their job back once they aren’t infectious. TB is airborne so unless I expect them to walk around the house with a mask, I’m exposing all in the house. I believe this is common practice as I would expect my employer to do the same to me to protect my colleagues if I was the one infected.

  16. @Ann and @Dol true the dynamics of TB are slightly different as TB is easily infectious. So @Ann did you release her for those 8 months as she undertook her treatment regimen and as @Dol has said she would do, or did you keep her? And if you kept her, did she continue doing her normal house chores?

  17. wow….i agree with linda. i guese some decisions can only be made when faced with that situation. Tabitha…big big heart. You are blessed. thanks for sharing this story.

  18. Interesting that you all view it this way. I had not thought much about my actions until I saw all these comments. Thanks guys. The truth is that, Faith was more the Angel than my husband and I. She was sick, but worked as though our house was hers. BTW, I forgot to mention that she died of meningitis, which is common in AIDS patients.

  19. Aside the moral part, that you are just able to send away/home a house-help really puts a bad light on the kenyan legal system. Ending a contract on a wimp should be severely punished, looks like house-helps are not protected by labor law at all.
    In a country with a working legal right system the moral question would be: “Should it be allowed to fire a house-help with HIV” not “Should i fire a house-help with HIV”.

    Anyway, if they have to be scared about loosing their jobs because of their HIV status, they are more likely to hide it from you. And they also are more likely to desist from getting tested at all.
    So my question to you: Is it better to have a HIV positive house-help who takes preventive measures to not infect your kids, or is it better to have a house-help who might have HIV who is practicing no special behavior at all? With the high HIV rate in Kenya, especially in the poorer areas (where the house-help most probably is origin from) it might be the bigger risk to take.

  20. @Din good questions you raise there. But another question is: Do we even have any (written) contracts with these househelps? Would things be different if such contracts existed? What would the contract details be ûaside from their JD?

  21. Tabbie,
    Kudos for the good heart. I am in a dillemma. My first house help developed full blown AIDs before I could realise she was positive. I took my annual leave to take her for proper medical attention, only to be turned away that she cannot be put on ARV in her stage (low blood/Oxygen level). While I ran around organising for her addmission and blood transfusion, the mother came from shags. One look at her daughter and she declared she wants to go home with her. I regret trying to stop her because it only made us enemies todate. Apparently the hubby died of AIDs and for the 4 years that I lived with her, nobody, including my hubby, discovered this.
    One week later I received a replacement from my rural home. I saw it from Easy Coach where i had gone to pick her. The black Spots. When we reached home i did not hesitate to ask her if she knows about HIV. Before I finished fumbling with words, she told me that she would not hide her status. She is HIV+ve and she is on ARV.
    I did not want to send her home immediately lest she feel rejected. But the spots are scary. When she coughs at night I feel traumatized till morning. The long and short is I dont know what to do.

  22. @Emma your experiences are interesting. ItÆs good that you cared for your first househelp when she was unwell, even taking days off work to care for her. About your current situation, what action have you decided to take? Coz I wonder for how long you can keep having sleepless nights? You probably need to make a decision soonà

  23. We kept our house help.
    She developed herpes zoster and we took her to the doctor who confirmed that she was positive.
    Very much like many of the stories here, her husband had died several years earlier.
    She had really connected with our two kids and my wife & I decided to keep her.
    She took a long while to get well enough to return to work but we continued to pay her while we made do for a few months with a couple of house helps in between.

    She came back and is on ARV’s and is happier.
    I think it’s a personal choice and whichever way you choose should be informed and the safety of the children, carefulness of the help & your own peace of mind should all be at the forefront of your decision.

  24. @Peter may I salute you and your wifeÆs generosity? Keeping her on in your house while contracting other helps to take care of her duties is a rarity for most people to do. And just wondering, is she on a special diet and if yes, how do you go about this? Coz maybe some people would like to do the same as you did, but the financial implications (e.g medical expenses incase of opportunistic infections, contracting temporary househelps when she is unwell etc) would be abit constraining for them so they just release the girl. Kindly share.

  25. @emma it is really scary when you get to find out the HIV status is positive. What makes it worse is that this house help comes into close contact with your children and spouses. Instead of being fearful, you need to take control of the whole issue.What is important is that your househelp takes the ARVs and has their strenght of immunity tested. This immunity test is what is known as the CD4 test. By knowing these two measures i.e. the use of ARVs and the CD4 cells level you can be able to gauge the strenght of a persons immunity. When the level of CD4 cells goes below 250 it means that the person is prone to get infections like TB, Herpes, meningitis and other diseases you would not normally get. So make sure they stick to their clinic dates and take their medicines. By knowing these measures you will be more comfortable in knowing that any normal illness she gets is not a serious illness. You have to get involved without infringing on ones right to privacy. It would not be nice if your boss at work rummaged through your bag looking for signs of HIV infection under the guise that you work close together and that he or she is at risk of exposure. Dr Torooti

  26. @Dr. Torooti thanks for giving us the professional opinion. About infringing on her rights, someone commented elsewhere that it is required by law that anyone in a profession that involves handling of foods or healthcare or baby care is required to reveal their status to their empoyer. That nurses,doctors,chefs in hotels are required to let employer into their medical records. So does this mean that it is your right as your housegirls’ empolyer to know her status because she falls into this category of handling foods and babies? Please clarify.

  27. I also had a house gal who had the virus, and i chose to retain her. We took the necessary steps and also made sure her nutrition was well balanced to keep away infections. When she left, she had become weak and decided to go back to her rural home to relax.

    At the end of the day if the gal is gud and willing to work and precaution is taken, y not keep her.

  28. @Lesley you, just like Tabitha are one of a kind. Thanks for commenting and I hope you share your story with other parents out there who might be facing or have been faced with such a situation, just so that they can know that it’s something that can be done.

  29. @Maryanne:
    It would be your right, if you signed a (legal) contract with her. If you had a (legal) contract with her, you also could not just fire her as you please. A legal contract, formulated according to kenyan employment law would strengthen both positions, yours and hers.
    As long as you have no legal contract, you have no rights at all. I am not so literate in kenyan law, so i cannot tell you if you might be sued by the state for illicit employment with out a legal contract. Because the state is loosing tax money if there is no contract.
    I am also very sure, that even without a contract, a house help could sue everyone who “let her go”, because with letting her work at your house you make a informal agreement, which can be treated like a standard working contract. Sadly most families take advantage of the illiteracy and little knowledge of their rights of their mostly ill educated house-helps.
    The way most of the house-helps are treated in Kenya is in some way a new kind of slavery. I recommend to watch the Hollywood movie “the help”. Watching it i was strongly remembered of the situation of our house-helps, only difference was, in the 60’s USA the employers were all white, here oppressor and suppressed are often even from the same village/extended family.

  30. I also once hired a girl who was HIv +. Her name was carolyne. One of the best housegals i have ever had.She was referred to me by a relative. I have two children, a five yr old and a three year old. She revealed her status to me when she came to my house. We talked and agreed on the do’s and donts. She told me she gave birth to her two kids when she was HIV +. The kids were negative. She had married early to an abusive, philandering man. So she knew everything on how to take care of children when you are positive.

    She worked for me for two months only then she started having migraines that wouldnt go away. So i sent her to Mbagathi Hospital for the next round of her ARVs. But they told her she was developing resistance to the ones she was using and needed to change to others. They referred her back to her home clinic where she had been getting treatment.

    She was kind enough to hang on with me till i got a replacement for her. She called me after about two months that she had picked up and could come back. But i couldnt fire the new maid so i just sent her money to start a business and wished her well.

    We live with relatives who are HIV + and trust our children with them. Why not a house gal? I think it all depends on the person, coz to tell the truth, at first i was so scared. I used to grill the kids on everything she did. But i discovered that she was a wonderful, warm, tidy and obedient person.

  31. @Clara yours is also an inspiring experience and you trully have an accomodating heart. Thanks for sharing your story. I guess it depends on the personalities of both the employer and the housegirl. Your housegirl was honest and upfront about it, because there are those who conceal their status for fear of being fired (perhaps justifiably so). From comments on other forums, it appears that accomodating a family member who is HIV+ is different from accomodating a HIV+ non-relative, so that’s why they say it’s ‘OK’ if it’s a family member because they apparently would mean no harm. That you just never know with non-family…..

  32. My housegirl continued with her housework as she wasn’t bedridden and luckily because i could afford to put her in her own bedroom she slept alone. The only challenge with TB is that a patient is usually very likely to infect others before they start treatment but when one begins treatment they become less infectious.
    I had to make dietary adjustments for her as the drugs only work if one eats very well so every morning as she chose to take her drugs in the morning she would take porridge before taking the drugs alongside anything else that we had for breakfast. This helps the patients tolerate the drugs they have to take for long. I was also a treatment buddy as i monitored that she took her drugs as expected.

  33. @Maryanne I am not aware ofsuch a law. I do not believe it exists. The only medical test food handlers under go is the test for checking typhoid. Even now employers cannot ask for a HIV test as of your medical examination. That was outlawed.

  34. @Ann cleary more education and awareness needs to be done on the TB issue. About the dietary adjustments and being a treatment buddy -that was very warm and caring of you.
    @Dr. Torooti thanks for that clarification.

  35. (DISCLAIMER: I work as a HIV Prevention Technical Advisor at Program for Appropriate Technology in Health – PATH, and hope that this background will not lead to technical bias that may sound ‘impractical’. My quest is more to try and help remove fear and ignorance, thus hope that that will help in making better and informed decisions.)

    FEAR
    IGNORANCE
    INTOLERANCE
    STIGMA and
    DISCRIMINATION.

    It is these five things that I read in this post and ‘concerns’.

    QUESTION 1: If the employer is HIV Positive, should the maid resign and leave work on account of fear of infection? My friend and colleague Oby Obyerodhyambo has eloquently posed this question elsewhere in another forum.

    QUESTION 2:If the employers (parents of the child) were a HIV positive couple, would the same ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ you seek to impose on the house-girl apply? Does HIV become a ‘special’ concern when it affects a house-girl, and a tolerable issue when it affects the elite ’employer’?

    QUESTION 3: Is it possible that some other diseases would in fact be more dangerous than HIV exposure were a child (or family) exposed to an infected person who is not undergoing treatment? The answer is Yes. Hepatitis, Tuberculosis (including drug and multiple drug resistant types), Pneumonia, untreated parental STIs like Gonorrhea and Syphilis at pregnancy and birth, etc. I would bother more on ensuring that not only the house-girl, but any member of the family who has these diseases are treated to avoid infecting the child.

    QUESTION 4: How is HIV spread? This is the critical point in this discussion I think, and our fears and ignorance are what have fueled this anxiety. To answer that query, it is important to appreciate how HIV IS NOT spread. HIV is NOT spread through cooking food, sharing food, feeding others, sharing utensils, washing utensils etc. It IS NOT spread by sharing clothes, washing clothes, cleaning the house, bathing in the same tub/basin, bathing together, changing nappies, sleeping together on the same bed etc. It was an act of gross stigmatization that Faith could not mix her clothes with those of the family members. There was no reason at all not to do this. HIV is NOT spread by sharing the loo. It IS NOT spread via faeces, urine, saliva and even pus.The development of Dos and Don’ts, while I strongly oppose it in an ignorant setting, ought to take cognizance of this.

    So, HOW IS HIV SPREAD? Only three ways are known and accepted as the methods of transmission: CONTACT WITH HIV INFECTED BLOOD, i.e. infected blood entering into the blood system of another person via breaks in the skin, membranes and tissues (This may include instances of blood transfusion, sharing a knife at circumcision, sharing sharps e.g. syringes and razor blades, accidents that spill blood e.g. road accidents, cooking incidents etc); MOTHER TO CHILD TRANSMISSION, rarely during pregnancy but more probable during birth, especially in home deliveries, and during breastfeeding; and finally, UNPROTECTED SEXUAL INTERCOURSE WITH SOMEONE WHO IS INFECTED WITH HIV. The first two modes are more efficient than sexual transmission.

    QUESTION 5: Did the Doctor provide Tabitha with ‘good’ advice: The answer is a huge NO. In fact, the doctor strayed beyond her/his mandate to make Tabitha have Faith travel from Nairobi to Ahero in whatever state she was in. It stinks of neglect of duty. Just to put matter straight, please note that any disease that a HIV positive person has can be successfully cured…unless the stage of AIDS is too dire. It is very probable that Faith succumbed not to an AIDS related issue but through the trauma of travel with a migraine. Who wouldn’t? Faith would be alive if she was just put into proper care. And that is the tragedy of HIV and AIDS…that many people have been driven to their deaths with our misplaced ‘sympathies’.

    QUESTION 6: In the case of blood spilling in the house from any HIV positive person, how can you deal with it? Please note first that HIV cannot survive for long outside the human body. The best thing to do is avoid panic. Invest ion disposable gloves and JIK. JIK is the only detergent that breaks down HIV, thus destroying it. It is a powerful detergent to have.Wash the blood off with a solution of water mixed with JIK. Even clothes that are thus splashed with blood can be cleaned this way.

    FINAL THOUGHTS:

    It is a travesty to discriminate against house-girls simply because of their real or perceived HIV status. Many respondents here have praised their work. So you would be missing great service by being ignorant and fearful. It is best to ensure that you continue dealing with a sick house-girl just as you would your sick child. Panic mostly would cause one not to think. Do’s and Don’ts should only be mutually and reasonably developed and applied…but not to only house-girls. It is important to seek knowledge and help. Tabitha really believes that she did her best in the circumstances, but I dare say that she was grossly misled. Self-stigma, misplaced sympathies and bad advice from the doctor led to the unfortunate death of Faith.

    I want to nevertheless applaud all who have had the courage to share their experiences and have made efforts to alleviate the experience of AIDS. And also to applaud those who have shared their honest fears and potential behavioral tendencies were they to be faced with such a situation.

    I do not want to risk writing too much. You may contact me through Maryanne in case you want us to chat more about this. In the end, it boils down to the decision of the person facing the dilemma. Be safe and do not stigmatize.

  36. @Oluoch, i used to think i am the one person who does not stigmatize at all…. now i know i am probably one of the worst at it. Thanks alot for this write-up… its an eye-opener.

  37. Oluoch. I’m glad you’ve shared this very candidly as I’ve learnt a lot and know to do better next time. Thanks! Thanks again Maryanne for starting this educative forum. There’s lots of knowledge out there that is untapped!

  38. @Oluoch good questions you raise and much food for thought. Thanks for taking time to comment.
    @MissBabes and @Tabbietab -we’re all learning here….

  39. Hi maryanne,i would like to contact Oluoch for further information.kindly facilitate this and thank you for this educative forum-my eyes have been opened i wish there were people like him out there to help us in our ignorance-even the Bible says that my people perish because of lack of knowledge.

  40. @Dorothy, @Aika and @Aimee, thanks for your comments. I have also been very educated since I put up this post. @Aimee I have gotten in touch with Oluoch, and he’ll get in touch with you. Thanks.

  41. It is amazing that in 2012, with all the information that is so readily available, Kenyans can still be so ignorant and misinformed on HIV/AIDS. Oluoch gave a wonderful response and for anybody who might be interested in additional information on HIV/AIDS transmission and universal precautions, they can join the Truth Pandemic by checking out: projecthopeful.com.

  42. Poweful story Tabbie. I once placed a lady who, just before a job interview, spontaneously confessed of living positively i.e. living with HIV. After some soul searching, the interviewer decided to hire her. She kept her for a year and the lady left on her own to pursue other ventures. While in employment the lady who regularly attended counseling services at an hospital, conducted herself in a way as not to expose anyone to infection.

  43. I cant sleep its 1:27 am…I am writing this… my housegirl was brought to me 2 or 3 days ago…after a day I noticed she wanted to cover herself much..I immediately suspected that she cud be HIV…I became keen to see if I can see her skin especially the legs and the arms. When finally I saw them they had this black spots allover.. I immediately knew she was positive but I cud’nt ask her lest it was true and I offend her..
    I sent her abit far so I can check out her stuff..I stumbled on ARVs. Since then I lost my peace She is very hardworking . The first of her kind …I cooked supper before I went to my evening classes just so she has less contact with knives..but I just don’t know how long I can cope with this..I came back in the car I was just crying wondering ..torn between my small innocent kids and my hardworking needy housegirl. I hoped to find mistakes to send her packing but I will never find any. I only have sympathy wen I saw her..
    I called my husband who lives far abit and his words were short…hiv??? Please pay her even if the whole month but let her go…I ask him for the excuse to use not to hurt her and he cant help with a logical one..I am soo devastated..I know HIV can happen even to me…but my kids are involved here..she is uneducated and that may just increased the risk…I really don’t know what I will feel or be left feeling if I send her packing. I wish I cud afford money to help her start a small biashara…so she can move on… but all I know she just have to go so I can have peace… Just how do I tell her?????

  44. I recently got into the same dillema.Av been living with my housegal for six months now.i have 2 kids aged 8 & 3 and expecting my 3rd born in 2 mnths time.about a wk ago my 3yr old developed lymph nodes behind her ears and wen i took her to the doc he tld me i may be living with tb infected person cz its one of the causes.i went home and the following day wen the housegal had gone to church i scrolled the bag and found a full paperbag of ARVS.i was so shocked not knowing wat to do.this gal has been so good to my kids n her work is superb..ave heard all sorts of advices frm friends to let her go for the sake of the kids and my unborn.am telling u its bn a difficult week for not knowing wat to tell her.Yes i love my kids so much bt i feel for her so much and i wouldnt let her know am aware of her status and today i had to let her go bt had to lie am travelling and that i’ll take her back wen i come back.i paid her the whole month and she left with a gud heart hoping to come back after am back bt i promise to find a job for her.i wish she dint have TB cz to me HIV wasnt a big deal cz its not her fault and if at all my kids were grown ups.

  45. Tabitha, you have a big heart and lived the love that Jesus talked about. In 2000 at a time when stigma against persons living with HIV was at its peak. This was the same time when members of the clergy would be excommunicated and defrocked at the least suspicion of HIV. This was the same time some Churches would refuse to hold a requiem mass for a person who died from AIDS related complications. Yet you chose to retain your house help. I wish many could posses just half of this love. This would would be a better place. God’s grace is abundant. You’re an angel.

  46. a pal of mine hired a housegal from the bureau and on her first day of work we hapnd to come home earlier from classes n we found the newhousegal breastfeedinga 7month old baby. we immediately took her to hospiral n she tested hiv positive.shewas asked why she was breastfeeding she claimed to be unaware of her status. the baby wasput on the post exposure n was to be tested later after 3months. the housegal was arrested for only 2yrs. i found that very disturbing n im very afraid of hiring housegals i cant trust them. i hav no problem with pple infected with hiv i just worry that not many of them have the best interests at heart. i quit work to take care of my babygirl now she is 7months n u feel i need to go back to work so i need a housegal bt am very worriedif i can trust my kid around any.

  47. Very sensitive topic and there is no right answer on how to go about this very sensitive issue. I do understand the parents fear for the safety of their children, but at the same time, one wonders what we should do to our HIV positive brothers and sisters who are less fortunate. Put yourself in their position, if you are a doctor and your job employment depends on your HIV status, would you like it? The chances of you infecting your patients is very high, but you have the moral obligation not to infect your patients. In the same breath, let us give these less fortunate individuals the same chance we give the privileged . Treat them well, provide the health care that they need and I am sure they will do their part. Thin line to walk, but as mentioned above, house-girls too have rights, if you can not trust them, then do not use them. If you need them, then do the right thing. I think a better standard measurement would be the moral values of the house-girl other than their HIV status.

  48. It is not easy dealing with this kind of situation at all. When my only son was 3 months old, we had to get a house help. She was HIV positive- in fact, he condition was in an advanced stage. I didn’t vet her before the hiring. Typhoid, migraines, and fever were the order of the day. Kaposi’s sarcoma hit in a month after she came through- the little kid was fascinated by her changing color… I am a Biotech graduate; so my understanding of aids isn’t hearsay. I am well informed. I have at least 2 more docs in my family- they freaked out, I freaked out.

    Lond story short, it’s hard to leave a helpless kid under the care of a sickly caretaker. The stigma many HIV patients get, and how they feel about themselves makes them a bit unstable mentally. I just couldn’t tell her I was worried. Thing is, it’s bad enough having stigma towards HIV positive people, but then again, it’s even more depressing knowing something as innocent as an untimely body fluid exchange could be a hattrick needed to transmit HIV to your child.

    I simply had to make up an excuse that I was taking my son with me because of a fight with the baby mama- paid her well and left. We still communicate, sometimes. It is scary, but for a good reason. Simply be reasonable, but humane. She still lives, and my son is 2 1/2.

  49. Am going through the same situation my 1month housegal just confessed to me yesterday that she is hiv positive and needs to go at her homeplace for a week to pick her pack o arvs..i really like her so much and she is so nice but i fear for my baby and i dont want to fire her am really confused

  50. I Hired a nanny last week, and before she started doing anything is the house she told me that she was on ARV, apparently she was infected by her ex husband. i was very suddened and very worried by this information for the safety of my child who is only 1 year old. Ofcourse av been told and made aware that the possibility of infection is very low but i also thought of a 100 things that could also go wrong and i could NEVER be able to forgive myself if anything happened to my child. In the end i had to let her go and i did this with a very sad heart, i couldav never been in peace anyway.

  51. I discovered my nanny is HIV positive some 10 months ago when she developed herpes zoster. We had lived with her for 2 years by then. She also did not know, so we took her for tests , later counseling and took care of her at that time when she was down with herpes. She was started on ARVs immediately. I had just delivered my 3rd born, so i had to employ day bugs until she got well. My first thoughts were to fire hire immediately. My husband, a medic, was not so keen on me firing her. He wanted to understand what my concerns were. I told him how i fear for my kids and especially leaving her with the new born once i go back to work. But he still was not keen, coz she has been very good to us and with the kids. And the kids love her. After alot soul searching, i decided to keep her. You see, my thinking was this. Most of us employ househelps without undertaking any tests on them, like i had done with this one. How do you know whether the nanny you have is HIV positive or not? She does not have to be on ARVs for you to know. Its possible that even her she does not know and is just living life like mine was. When we took her to hospital, we were told that she must have had it for a minimum of 6 years. She has a 7 year old , whom she was advised to take for tests but thanks God he turned negative. She suspects she got it from the father of the child, whom they were living with, but parted 5 years ago. He already passed on, but she said he passed on after he was beaten up by thugs, long after they parted. We just advise her to be careful; the same stuff they are told when they go for their medication and review. So by the time i ma telling her some things on care, she already knows from the teachings they get. I have decided to support her until such a time we have to end the engagement. I make sure she eats well, vegetables and all. She takes her medication and her health very seriously. Even has alarm set for her medication hours. She invested in heavy and warm things so she does not contract any colds and coughs and so far we are managing well. I only made sure i took her for a TB test, coz this would have been our point of separation if she turned positive. But she is negative. Since March this year, she hasn’t had any of those opportunistic diseases. So, yes its possible. HIV can befall anyone and as Oluoch Madiang says, there are many HIV positive mothers and fathers taking care of HIV negative people. What would you do if the shoe was in the other foot? Would you wash your clothes separately, separate plates etc?

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