NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 29 – After confirming her worst fears that she was HIV positive, 19 year-old Joyce Amondi was met with rejection and judgment even before she could come to terms with her status.
From the moment her classmates knew she was HIV positive, she became the subject of gossip and discrimination.
“When I found out my status the girls were very disturbed and I was subject to pity party. Others were always sidelining me. They played around with my drugs… they talked, but I chose to move myself forward,” she recounted.
At her young age, Amondi had to choose to ignore the gossip and grapple with containing the disease.
Speaking at State House, Nairobi on Thursday, she confidently narrated how she rose above the talk to complete her secondary education and also earn good marks to get her a position in university.
“I have accepted what has been in my system. The only difference is that now I know. I decided to prove them wrong. I am joining university in September. I knew if someone talks about me, I am actually significant.”
Elijah Leimayan is also another teenager living positively who narrated to President Uhuru Kenyatta about the discrimination he faced.
His worst nightmare since he learnt of his HIV status was after he was denied to enrol in a school after disclosing his status.
“My President, even after we met, I was refused admission into a school after a successful interview because we disclosed my HIV status. I was very sad and even decided to be homeschooling. I thought there is no other school would take me because of my HIV status,” Leimayan narrated.
However, he was happy after a different school accepted him and supported him despite his status.
Leimayan explained that children living positively need love and care, like other children.
According to the young boy, the biggest threat to children living with HIV was stigma and not the disease itself.
“Children with HIV want to play without being reminded their HIV status, Mr President tell them stigma kills because drugs alone cannot help us. We need love, tell our leaders to speak about HIV stigma because it is a monster that needs everyone to attack it,” he pleaded.
President Kenyatta who has passionately been at the forefront fighting stigma and HIV/AIDS urged people to accept people living with the virus and support them.
He regretted the unfortunate experiences those like Amondi and Leimayan had to endure in isolation just because they were positive.
“Every child is precious, and every death is deeply regrettable. That is why we need to sustain the momentum we have established, so that none of our children will ever again suffer in this way,” President Kenyatta said.
“Surely if young Elijah can do it, you can all do it. We all need to support the fight and bring an end to stigma and discrimination.”
President Kenyatta spoke when he launched a new anti-HIV drive, Maisha County League, a campaign that will use sports to create awareness against stigma of people living with HIV in all the 47 counties.
He also received trophies that will be presented to the winning football teams at the end of the league as part of celebrations to mark the World Aids Day on December 1.