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Louis "Kengi" Carr

Louis

Louis "Kengi" Carr is a California native, born and raised in Santa Monica. He is a published photographer, writer and guest speaker. Formerly a private chef and events caterer, this formerly homeless, HIV positive, proud Angelino is now a activist and advocate for people with HIV and homeless individuals. He is the creator/founder of Project Kengikat, Do Something Saturday, Unplugging HIV and the author of 29 Months.

A lover of photography, blogging and vlogging and USC Football, Kengi has been rediscovering his love for Los Angeles, ceramics, painting and cooking while elevating the conversations of HIV and homelessness. He enjoys being outdoors, spending quality time with his friends and his amazing rescue dog Dodger.

Apr03

HIV diagnosis in Nairobi, Kenya, a personal account.

Monday, 03 April 2017 Written by // Guest Authors - Revolving Door Categories // Social Media, African, Caribbean and Black, As Prevention , General Health, Treatment Guidelines -including when to start, Mental Health, Health, International , Treatment, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Louis "Kengi" Carr, Guest Authors

Kimutai Kemboi shares the story of his HIV journey, from diagnosis up to now.

HIV diagnosis in Nairobi, Kenya, a personal account.

It was in November 2015, a day which will remain memorable in my life as long as I am on this earth. At around 11am, as I stepped out of a friend's house, heading to where I was staying, I heard loud music coming out from a big roadshow truck next to the stage where I was to board a matatu. I had to retreat for a while to see what the soothing music was all about. 

As the truck approached, the music sounded louder and louder as the Dj did the mixes from one song to another. I was obsessed to an extent that I had to comply with the rhythm and started to shake my body a little. I was not the only one moved but also the people around me started moving dancing. Everybody did a style of his choice. 

Suddenly the music came to a stop as some charming voice from the speakers took over the surroundings where everyone was quiet. They introduced themselves and went ahead to tell us why they came.

Some people started leaving but I found no reason to leave. I stood still, listening as they made deliberations on issues about sexual life and health. They talked about sex-related infections and how those are spread, controlled and treated. HIV was one of the infections that they took an interest in and they talked a lot about it. 

For about 20 minutes they had been talking, but their last words caught my attention: they were doing HIV testing for free. I don't know whether I was confused or convinced but I heard some whispers in my mind, one saying get tested and another saying don't.

In that process of confusion I felt a touch on my shoulder. It was a young and beautiful lady. She said, "Hello brother, would you mind getting tested? It is free, confidential and won't take long."

I don't know how it went but I found myself being led into a tent. 

A charming counselor welcomed me with a hot smile and I replied, though I forced mine. She took me through counseling and I was convinced to be tested.

As I waited for the results, he kept on talking to me though I understood nothing because I was worried, if not confused. My Polo shirt started changing colour and stuck to my body because I was profusely sweating and my hands and legs were shaking as if they were fixed to a vibrator. My eyes which were fixed to the testing kit became weak and I could not look at it anymore

"... I realized that fighting stigma starts with one's soul and people will treat you the way you treat yourself."

The counselor drew his chair next to mine as he had noticed something in me or probably in what was happening to that testing kit. He kept the kit away from my sight and talked to me. He advised me to accept any outcome and eventually I gave in. 

He brought the results before me, I felt something like an electric shock as I looked at it. I could not believe it and prayed hard that the whole thing might be a dream, but it wasn't. I was lost for words as my mind went blank, I only saw darkness. I took a while before coming to my senses and committing suicide took over my thoughts. 

The counselor talked to me though I could not understand him. Even as he did the confirmatory test, I felt like walking out but he managed to convince me to stay. Finally, he instilled some hope in me after a long talk and I saw a reason to live again. 

I left the place with lots of thoughts and lots of illusions. I didn't know what to do or whom to talk to as I felt everybody knew my condition and was against me. It was the beginning of a hard life.

I took a while before acknowledging my condition, to the point of visiting another VCT centre for another test, which turned out to be positive also. That is where I was advised to start medications after tests on my CD4 count and viral load had been done.

It happened that my CD4 was 287 which made me eligible to start ART but it was not possible since I had to have a person to witness and declare that he would watch over my adherence to the medication. Since I had nobody and was not willing to disclose my status to anybody, I had to stay until August last year, when I approached someone who was under medication to stand by me. This is when I started my medication. 

I began to gain courage and disclosed to my family members and some friends, who turned out to be supportive and understanding. The courage grew until I felt I should talk to people about getting tested and knowing their status but it was fruitless. I felt that the most appealing way to create an outreach was to disclose my own status.

To my surprise, nobody fought against me and I realized that fighting stigma starts with one's soul and people will treat you the way you treat yourself. 

Since I disclosed my status, many people have been touched in different ways including getting tested and starting medication, others disclosing their status to family members. 

Right now I am confident about myself and optimistic of a bright future as well as inspiring many of a similar condition to live positively. I have vowed to adhere to my medication so as to avoid increased susceptibility to opportunistic diseases and attain an undetectable viral load. 

Adherence to medication has raised my CD4 from 287 to 637 in a span of six months and my next destination is attaining undetectable viral load!!!!!!! 

I believe that being positive is not end of life but beginning of a new phase of life, HIV will not take me down!!!!!

About the author: "I am Kimutai Kemboi, turning 26 on 9th of April this year. 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."

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