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Many Kenyan residents living with HIV lack the knowledge to understand how to properly take their medicine

HIV-positive residents in Kenya take their antiretrovirals (ARVs) daily, yet because many people are illiterate, they are unaware of what the drugs are doing or what the side-effects could be, IRIN reports.

Isaac Nanok is one man who takes his medicine but has no idea what the writing on the package means.

"All I know is that when I get home, I will take a tablet in the morning and also in the evening. When they are finished, I go back for more," he told IRIN. "I don't know what is written here on the container, and even the doctor just talks to me in Swahili, which I don't understand well."

Lacking an understanding of the information on the package is a problem for patients who don't know whether it is safe to take the drug with certain foods. Others may not realize that an issue they are having is a side-effect of the drug. Still, many take it regardless.

Local humanitarian health workers regularly hold meetings to talk to HIV-positive patients about the importance of eating healthy while on the drugs and following the guidelines, though most workers believe putting simple diagrams on the packaging would make a world of difference for illiterate patients.

According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2009, in rural Kenya, only 26 percent of the population has completed high school and less than half can read a whole sentence, while 16.7 percent cannot read at all.

"Other than just translating the literature about ARVs into local languages, community health workers should be people who are able to speak the native language... because there are those who cannot read even literature written in their native language," Andrew Juma Suleh, medical superintendent at Nairobi's Mbagathi District Hospital told IRIN.

The country is looking into this issue and is also working on education programs about safe sex for its residents.
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