"I tested positive seven years ago and up to date no member from my immediate family knows about and I am not ready to disclose to them soon. I just vowed to live with my condition in silence rather than taking the risk of looking for worse by revealing my status. I saw what my aunt went through before she passed on and I can't imagine going through the same hell."
This is what John, a barber in an estate within Nairobi, told me as he shaved me. We came to be friends after I went to his shop to get shaved, for three times now. The conversation started with something I never expected. He asked me if I was the guy he watched sometimes back on You Tube being interviewed on HIV related issues. I had to enquire which media to ascertain if indeed I was the one and surprisingly, it was me!
"You must have a metal heart to go public about your HIV status. Most people live with the condition and are suffering in silence since they fear sharing what they are going through. I have seen such people opening up when they are bedridden and peeping at the grave. This is the time when they open up since they don't see light on the way," John told me.
"My aunt ," he added, "made the mistake of her life by disclosing to her family about her condition. Everybody including my own mother turned against her. They treated her like a stranger in her own family. She had everything set aside for her - utensils, clothing, bedding etc. - so that no one would touch, all n the name of not getting the virus! She felt rejected, depressed and started getting sick, being in and out of hospital. Her condition worsened day by day till she prematurely passed on a year later.
"My aunt ," he added, "made the mistake of her life by disclosing to her family about her condition. Everybody including my own mother turned against her. They treated her like a stranger in her own family."
"I was shocked to realise that people could be so evil, even to their immediate family members! These were the people who should have stood on the forefront to encourage and defend her but they turned against her." John said in pain!
The conversation became more interesting when I gave my version. Though he might have read, seen or heard from the media, now he would get it from the horse's mouth. My experience was different and a direct opposite of what his aunt went through.
I took close to a whole year before disclosing to my family, leave alone friends! This was not because it was hard but because I had my own perception on how they would take it. I feared being disowned and regarded as an outcast in the family but this was never to be the case. My family accepted me, though they were shocked (which was quite obvious) and they became so very caring and supportive that even a simple sneeze could sound an alarm; "Is anything the matter?"someone could ask!
"Not everybody has such heart, to take it with ease and to be concerned. Your family is exceptional, I must say. I tested positive seven years ago and to date no member from my immediate family knows about it. No one will ever learn about it unless I am bed ridden or my doctor tells them about it in my absence. Everything I do, such as taking my drugs and going for appointments is all private. No one knows about it. By the way I even take my drugs from outside Nairobi, just to keep it more private." He explained this with caution, so as not to let anyone else hear.
I had to promise to keep the privacy since I read on his face that he was afraid about having spilled the beans. His story was touching and I had to ask him if I could shar it. He agreed but with the condition that I not reveal his identity.
"I am Kimutai Kemboi, turning 26 on 9th of April 2017. Currently I am pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer science at Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, Kenya.
"I’m HIV positive and under medication but doing well health wise since I have accepted to live positively, adhere to medication and practice a healthy lifestyle so that HIV does not overwhelm me. Besides my studies, I work as a volunteer to create HIV awareness and sensitivity in the community, both face to face and through social media platforms, especially Facebook.
"I opted to do this awareness-raising because I want to have an HIV-free society and save my generation from perishing."