From rejection to beacon of hope

From rejection to beacon of hope

Philgon Atieno, a 43-year-old widow living positively with HIV, is one among many unsung heroes in challenging stigma.

She has managed to overcome the difficulties she has faced, and has opted to live positively and help her community, especially HIV and AIDS affected children.

Philgon at her Perl Omega School classroom Philgon, a mother of two, lives in the outskirts of Kisumu, a city in western Kenya. When she first learnt that she was HIV positive she was subjected to emotional and physical abuse. After being sacked from her job, she gave up on life and wished she could die.

The turning point in Philgon’s life came in 2002 when a friend introduced her to WOFAK, where she joined a support group of women living with HIV. She attended the group’s monthly meetings where she learnt more about HIV and AIDS, was counselled and learnt about positive living from other members who spoke openly about their HIV and AIDS status. In addition, WOFAK provided her with monthly food rations and medication. All these improved her health but most importantly bolstered her will to live.

Buoyed by improved health she brought together other women affected by HIV and AIDS in Manyatta and they formed the “Pearl Omega Positive Test Support Group”. The group is involved in providing nursing and psychosocial care and support to those affected by HIV and AIDS. In the course of interaction with members of the group and their children, Philgon realised that just like adults, children affected by HIV and AIDS suffered from stigma. Resolving to do something about this, she converted her small house into a preschool by admitting seven children of women living with HIV.

To read the rest of Philgon’s story, click here.