HIV-Positive and Living Positively: a Kenyan man overcomes the odds and gives back to his community


June 17, 2013

   

Daniel, 37, is from a rural village in Siaya County, Kenya. He had always dreamed of becoming a doctor and in 1995, Daniel enrolled at Moi University to study medicine. In his fifth year of school, he fell gravely ill. At a time when no one in Kenya spoke publically about HIV and AIDS, Daniel was diagnosed as HIV-positive.

He returned to his mother’s home in Kisumu, where he was bedridden for a full year. Through the financial support of an American professor affiliated with Moi University, Daniel was able to start antiretroviral treatment in September of 2000.

Daniel says, “By then, I was so sick that everybody knew I was going to die, including the clinicians in the wards; however, I survived. After my ‘miraculous’ recovery, there was a radical change of thinking among the medical fraternity in MTRH [Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital]. They now knew that even in sub-Saharan Africa, with its limited medical facilities, HIV could be treated – That’s when the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) program was born.”

In May 2002, Daniel met Claris, a peer also living with HIV. Despite the overwhelming stigma and discrimination pervading the country at the time, the two launched the first HIV/AIDS support group in the North Rift Region of Kenya in August of that same year. However, not everyone supported Daniel’s courage and initiative. Over the next two years, Daniel dealt with eviction, had to drop out of school, and faced numerous other barriers because of his HIV status.

Daniel’s life would change forever in 2004, the year PEPFAR began supporting the HIV/AIDS response in Kenya. On PEPFAR’s arrival, he recounts, “After volunteering with the AMPATH project for over two years, I signed a formal contract of employment. More importantly, I felt assured that there will be ARVs for me and others for years to come. This is now my 14th year on ARVs, and I thank PEPFAR for that. I am sure I would not have been able to purchase ARVs on my own for all these years. Hundreds of thousands who are receiving ARVs in Kenya as result of the PEPFAR funding would probably be facing a similar predicament.”

Daniel adds, “I may have not realized my dream of becoming a medical doctor, but I believe have I have saved many lives, in a different way. Because of PEPFAR, I am pursuing my MPH and am also able to make future plans for myself and my family, and also cater for their needs.”

AMPATH is composed of Moi University, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and a consortium of North American academic health centers led by Indiana University working in partnership with the Government of Kenya. AMPATH receives support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

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