Flying No More For a HIV Positive Boy

Nairobi July 7th 2011- He wanted to become a cabin crew but he would in no way get a job because of his HIV status, the young orphaned boy is actually closer to the dream but he will have to work as a groundman in the aviation sector.

All results were normal except for HIV, My boss at the Nyumbani Children’s Home told me that i can’t work as a cabin crew if the confirmatory test will turn out positive. My dreams were shattered. I’m not yet stable. That’s why am studying again, this time as a flight dispatcher.

Find out why the young boy had to shelve his ambition of becoming a cabin crew and instead took a training course in Flight Dispatch career in the aviation industry which would eventually limit his movement

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Flying No More For a HIV Positive Boy 

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By Edna Kivuva

Writer - Edna Kivuva

Growing up Musa Ogolla (not his real name) had a big dream ­– working as a cabin crew with a major airline.

“I admired the way the cabin crew dressed and served the passengers in movies. I looked forward to achieving my dream,” he reminisces.

Ogola worked hard in school scoring good grades that would pave way to his dream career.

After completing his secondary school education, the 21 year-old started his search for a good college where he could enroll for a cabin crew course.

But little did Ogolla know his dream would be shattered. The orphaned boy, who lost his parents to Aids related illnesses, was shocked by the reaction of Nyumbani Children’s Home Chief Manager Protus Lumiti, a place he would later call home.

“He advised me not to pursue the career due to my HIV status,” he said. “I was devastated as I he was a father figure to me,” he says.

Musa sought to know why he could not pursue the course. Lumiti informed him that as a cabin crew attendant, he would spend most of his life flying to different destinations, which would require him to get the yellow fever vaccine. He had travelled to Ireland some years back for two weeks without getting the yellow fever shot. “I wondered what the fuss was about,” said Ogolla.

Musa Ogolla (not his real name)

Hellen Oyombera, a social worker at the home  later counseled and told him that the yellow fever vaccine would harm his health since he was HIV positive.

Dr Ashraf Grimwood a community HIV specialist  says exposure to live vaccines, though the risk is low, puts Immunocompromised people, including people with HIV and AIDS, leukemia, lymphoma at risk of contracting diseases. “The vaccines can stimulate the immune system causing infections, which promote viral reproduction,” explains Grimwood.

People living with the virus should not be given live vaccines unless they are on treatment and their immune system healthy.

He says there is no reason, however, for a person living with the HIV virus not to take the yellow fever vaccine if they are on treatment and they have a stable immunity system – a CD4 count of over 200.

He says an individual with a CD4 count below 200, even if they are on treatment, their immune system may not respond well.

Ogolla’s experience is a contrast from that of Jacky Mugisha, a young Ugandan living with HIV.

She flew to South Africa in last November for an HIV conference and after getting the yellow fever jab.

She was not even aware that people living with the virus can be affected by live vaccines.  “I do not hide my HIV status. So I disclosed my status before getting the yellow fever vaccine. They checked my CD4 count then they gave me the jab so I did not have a problem traveling,” she said.

“I had no option than to change my career since I don’t want to involve myself in something that would jeopardise my health,” Ogolla said.

He later chose to pursue one-and-a-half-year diploma course in Flight Dispatch to allow him to work in the airplane industry but on ground.

“I am an intern at Air Cargo for three months and I have the will, ability and desire to join and grow in this exciting industry my health status notwithstanding,” he said.

Ogolla is under pressure to move out of the home to create room for other orphans who have lost their parents to Aids. “The rule is that when one attains the age of 18, they cannot continue living in a children’s home,” he explains.

Yet it is common for college graduates to stay for months or even years without securing a job forcing them to stay with their parents or guardians.

Ogolla has   applied for a job as a gardener so that he can sustain himself as he job hunts. He now lives in the servants’ quarters at the children’s home.  “I am grateful because I get a wage at the end of the month to enable me get fare to attend job interviews,” he said.

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