This was the new him.
Ambassador Kimutai Kemboi!
He wears this title with swag and gait.
On the outside, he looks calm and soft spoken. But when he puts pen to paper, or most times, his digits to the keypad, he wears a different demeanour.
Kimutai Kemboi is a 28 year old Computer Science student at one of the universities in Nairobi.
He is HIV positive.
Kimutai loves talking to the young people. Photo courtesy.
In fact when he isn’t in class learning more than the basic function of CONTROL+ALT+DELETE, he is a champion creating awareness on HIV especially among the youth.
How did he become a disclosure ambassador?
He doesn’t mince his words. He shares his story sharing moments of lack, presumed favour and love, explains how a well-intentioned move went wrong and narrates how he finally moved to a period of restoration of hope, love and finding a life-purpose.
“Times at home were tough when I was in secondary school. I dropped out of school and came to the city of Nairobi to look for a job to save for my school fees. I got a job as a garden boy.
Plan your life. Photo courtesy
I was involved in a sexual encounter with my employer who promised to pay my tuition fees in return.
It only happened once.
This changed my life forever.
My employer later lost her formal job and she had to relocate to the village.
I was stranded in the big city once again.
I took up odd jobs that were hard to find and they also paid poorly.
Make informed choices. Photo courtesy
During these moments of hanging out strategically outside companies for potential casual jobs, a mobile HIV Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre one of our friends dared us to pass time by taking a HIV test.
The first result brought anxiety.
The second one was even more surprising.
The third one prompted him to rub his eyes to read the test results better.
The double lines confirming a positive test result, seemed blurred.
He was confused, then dizzy.
But the test results came back the same each confirmatory time.
When the counsellor confirmed that the test showed that he was HIV positive, Kemboi remembers that he dismissed the test and blamed the VCT centre for using fake and defective HIV test kits.
But the fourth, fifth and all the other ten tests at different VCT centres and health facilities brought the same results.
He decided to focus on his search for casual jobs.
He couldn’t be HIV positive.
He was in denial for a year.
How can I have HIV?
Do young people get HIV?
I am only 24 years.
I am a very healthy person.
He remembers these monologue discussions that also kept him away from his family for fear they would notice that he was stressed.
But the story doesn’t unfold as easily and flawless as he explains it.
Along his search for the causal jobs, he met a young man who shared his personal story and convinced him to re-take the HIV test, have a CD4 test that would also give an indication of his viral load and to follow-up with counselling.
Kemboi took the tests and began Anti Retroviral Therapy. Five years later, Kemboi has undetectable HIV levels and he passionately shares his story to encourage young people to make informed choices about their lives. Being undetectable means a person living with HIV adhering to their antiretroviral therapy has achieved a viral load in their blood that’s so low it can no longer be detected. He further shares that in the event they find out they are HIV positive, it is possible to have a productive life while still on treatment.
Did he resume his studies?
Life is about sharing laughs and smiles. Photo courtesy
Well, his fortunes turned when he got his HIV results because he drew a roadmap that charted his personal path.
“I went home and confided in my brother. He called a family meeting and with my consent disclosed my HIV status. I was overwhelmed by the love and support by my mother and siblings. I stayed in the village for a while and later, I got a sponsor who paid for my high school education. I got impressive results and got a chance to study Computer Science on a government scholarship,” Kemboi says.
And as he anticipates to complete his degree in April next year, he reiterates that he will keep sharing public health messages on his social networking sites daily.
He is very blunt on his Facebook page. He takes time to explain why he is passionate about HIV awareness.
“We don’t share our HIV stories to seek attention nor empathy. We simply do to inspire, demystify and encourage,” Kemboi said in one of his Facebook posts this week.
The World Aids Day theme this year. ’Communities make the difference is a clarion call to encourage greater mobilisation of communities that is urgently required to address the barriers that stop communities delivering critical health services.
According to UNAIDS, World AIDS Day is an important opportunity to recognise the essential role that communities have played and continue to play in the AIDS response at the international, national and local levels.
So, what next?
Kemboi believes that each one of us needs to work an extra mile to understand that having HIV is manageable and that social support goes a long way in instilling a cohesive culture.
“For a person living with HIV, the community has a lot of impact on him/her.It influences how he is going live, peacefully or not. Either way, life has to continue and nothing comes to a stop. Many a times, the community is very judgmental thus making our lives difficult,” he says.
Kimutai further notes that discrimination is the greatest humiliation and threat; for persons living positively with HIV.
We cant interact, study, work or date freely. The people around us always gives us rough time and a times we keep on giving unnecessary explanation to justify ourselves, he concludes.
Quick question Kimutai, are you dating?
Well, he sent us to his Facebook page for an answer.