Not the usual scenery you would expect when in Mombasa town as I head to Mwanahawa Chai’s homestead. Mud houses thatched with and an occasional permanent building could be seen with a hint of cow dung in the air.
I reach Ms. Chai’s homestead in Utange village in the Shanzu area of Mombasa . It’s a school day and I can see children of school going age doing their household chores. With a smile Chai greets me. It’s very difficult to know the difficulties she faces until she speaks to me.
‘I am HIV positive and I have 7 children. My 6 child is living with HIV. He was born with the virus. I think I transmitted the virus to him when I was pregnant with him.’ Chai says. “During this pregnancy I never attended pre natal clinic.”
Chai’s last child is almost a year old and he is HIV negative. Chai says she attended the pre natal clinic, during her last pregnancy. “The health experts advised me preventive measures to take, so that I could not transmit the virus to my baby.”
Dr. Christine Katingima from the International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH) speaks of the dangers of being pregnant when one is HIV positive.
‘The HIV virus targets the immune system. Getting pregnant reduces immunity. She becomes vulnerable to opportunistic diseases. If she does not attend pre natal clinic she risks transmitting the virus to her baby. It’s better for a HIV positive woman to carry out family planning.’
Chai says she used to be susceptible to contracting many diseases which made her very weak. Community Light Program is a community based organization in Shanzu that deals with people living with HIV and AIDS. Edward Ponda is the program’s co-founder and a community health worker.
‘When Mwanahawa sought help from our organization she was pregnant. Her biggest challenge was carrying out family planning,’ Ponda recalls.
Chai used injections that caused her harmful side effects. She received assistance at the Community Light Program where she delivered her baby and underwent a tubal ligation. “An effective family planning method.’ Ponda observes.
According to mademan.com tubal ligation involves cutting the tubes between the ovaries and the uterus.
‘Family planning entails planning on how many children one will have and how to space them. It does not target the woman only but also the man of the family, says Dr. Katingima.
She adds that the practice helps a woman ‘breath’ after a pregnancy. She says that getting pregnant often adversely affects the mother.
‘Children well spaced are healthier. Always consider the future when deciding on the number of children so that you can comfortably cater for their needs, adds Dr. Katingima.
Chai says using injections as a method affected her health. She says she experienced nausea, dizziness and discharge during sex. She adds that she embraced tubal ligation as a method of family planning.
Tubal ligation reduces the chances of getting pregnant as compared to other methods and it is safe. This method is irreversible. However there is a myth that claims this method keeps a woman cold hence the partner does not get satisfaction during sex. ‘There is no scientific evidence to this, says Dr. Katingima.
Family planning is an issue that elicits emotions and many religious communities are divided when it comes to this matter. Pastor Zachariah Mwagandi of the Community of Christ church sheds light on this matter.
‘According to the Bible God gave us power to multiply and fill the earth. This means one has authority to decide how many children to have. It is not wrong to carry out family planning.’ Mwagandi concludes.