The day sugar mummy in­fected me with HIV

Kimu­tai Kem­boi re­veals how he over­came de­spair af­ter find­ing out he was Hiv­pos­i­tive to be­ing an anti-stigma cam­paigner

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - NATIONAL NEWS - BY JOY WANJA MURAYA

“Your test­ing kit is faulty!” were the first words that 26-year-old Kimu­tai Kem­boi ut­tered when an HIV test he took ‘to pass time’ turned out pos­i­tive.

That was two years ago. He was walk­ing home one day when met a group of youth coun­sel­lors con­duct­ing mo­bile vol­un­tary coun­selling and test­ing and one of them asked him to get tested.

He was con­fi­dent of a neg­a­tive re­sult but took the test any­way.

When asked to in­ter­pret his re­sults about ten min­utes later, the two lines that meant that he was Hiv-pos­i­tive caused a dizzy spell. He as­sumed it was be­cause he had skipped lunch that day and he walked out of the clinic deaf to ex­hor­ta­tions by coun­sel­lor to re­turn.

That night, he wres­tled with thoughts look­ing for an­swers on the likely source of his HIV in­fec­tion.

As he fil­tered the an­swers on his mind, he re­solved to take re­peat tests as a con­fir­ma­tion that the pre­vi­ous HIV test was de­fec­tive.

“It was a long night,” he re­mem­bers.

A first, sec­ond, third and fourth test the fol­low­ing morn­ing con­firmed he was Hiv-pos­i­tive.

He sat through the coun­selling ses­sions but most of the time he just stared at the ceil­ing. He was sad, bit­ter, con­fused and an­gry!

A quiet mo­ment of in­tro­spec­tion that evening took him back to a pe­riod when an older woman had em­ployed him at her home the pre­vi­ous year.

He re­called the prom­ise of a bet­ter life van­ished when his host­ess lost her job and she re­lo­cated to her ru­ral home leav­ing young Kem­boi stranded.

He turned to me­nial jobs to save money that could sus­tain him.

“I got in­fected by an older woman. It was just one en­counter. I was naive and be­lieved that she would pay for my stud­ies.”

“I hated her. I wanted to re­venge. How could she de­stroy my life?

“One thing that dis­turbed me the most was that she in­ten­tion­ally in­fected me. I thought of a way of re­veng­ing but with time I for­gave her. She died the same year from op­por­tunis­tic in­fec­tions.”

For 10 months, Kem­boi did not share his HIV sta­tus with any­one but this se­cre­tive live be­came un­bear­able.

But he chose to rise above it. “What was meant to kill me turned out to be a con­di­tion that could be man­aged.”

To­day, this sec­ond year Com­puter Sci­ence stu­dent at Catholic Uni­ver­sity of East Africa is cre­at­ing HIV aware­ness among his peers.

His mes­sage is clear: re­la­tion­ships with sugar dad­dies and mum­mies make young peo­ple vul­ner­a­ble to HIV and other sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions.

Novem­ber marks the sec­ond an­niver­sary since he knew his HIV sta­tus and he ad­mits that it marked his life’s turn­around since he went pub­lic about his HIV sta­tus in Jan­uary this year.

“I kept anti-retro­vi­rals and an­tibi­otics hid­den be­cause I did not want to ques­tions from my room mates and friends,” he says.

The iso­la­tion did not last long and he de­cided to share his sta­tus with his el­der brother who in­formed their fam­ily mem­bers.

“The power of love from my mother and sib­lings re­stored my hope in life. They en­cour­aged me and opened the door through which I shared my HIV sta­tus with the world,” says Kem­boi who is the last born in a fam­ily of five.

He joined the Anza Sasa pro­gramme that en­cour­ages those who test Hiv-pos­i­tive to get ARV treat­ment re­gard­less of their CD4 count.

In the past, only those with a CD4 count of 500 and be­low were el­i­gi­ble for treat­ment. CD4 is a lab­o­ra­tory test that mea­sures of how well the im­mune sys­tem is work­ing.

JEFF ANGOTE | NA­TION

Kimu­tai Kem­boi, 26, dur­ing the interview at the Na­tion Cen­tre on Thurs­day.

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