Today, we commemorate World AIDS Day—we stand in solidarity with the 78 million people who have become infected with HIV and remember the 35 million who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were reported.
As an organization, NairoBits is committed to end HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 through working towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). We implement Sexual Reproductive Health Rights program that is delivered to create awareness to the young people on their reproductive health and rights. Through the program, youth are taken through the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Referrals where they are linked to Health providers who provide youth friendly services to their communities. With the referrals, the youth are able to access services in reproductive health issues, commodities and counseling including Young People Living with HIV.
With this year’s theme, “Hands up for HIV Prevention” NairoBits acknowledges the peer educators involved in training their peers in the Reproductive Health by highlighting the journey of Grace Wanjiru who is living with HIV but positively contributes to the lives of dis advantaged youth.
“Back in high school, I used to like it when guests could come to our school and talk to us on issues such as ‘how to pass your exams’ and so on. But they focused more on that and forgot about other things. I wished they talked about healthy living, how being HIV positive or having any chronic disease is not a death sentence.
My name is Grace Wanjiru Kamau. I am 23 years of age and living with HIV. For the 23 years I have lived with HIV, I only started taking ARVs in September 2006.10 years later and I am still going stronger each day! With an interest in public speaking in high school, I started volunteering with a local organization in Nairobi called Huru. I went round to different localities and talked about myself and how I am living positively and that was not the end of the world. I also motivated people living with HIV and encouraged them through my talk.
In 2015, I started working with Family Health Option Kenya as an advocate in a project called 3E (empowerment + engagement= equality). In this program, I held online teachings on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Income generating activities (IGAs) and how to live positively. During this time, I enrolled 25 young women and empowered them in using social media. The ladies were rotational in managing the social media pages by moderating discussions on whats App group which was a success. We managed to review this each month by having recreational activities in different parks in Nairobi.
I am also an advocate in Sauti Skika, I represent Nairobi County I was even privileged to attend the annual HIV Prevention, Care and Treatment Scientific Conference from 18th-21st, June 2016. Sauti Skika is an organization that brings together people living with HIV to share and encourage one another to come in terms with it. Through Sauti Skika, I joined NairoBits Trust as a student in June 2015, but could not go on with the full time training because of my tight schedule. I later was recruited a s a peer educator in January 2016. As an educator, I have been involved in implementing the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) program dubbed WSWM (The World Starts with Me)
I do a lot of advocacy and do referrals in my college and Mathare North Area, which is one of the biggest slums in Nairobi and that is where I live. Recently I started conducting health talks, adherence counseling, follow ups, defaulter tracing and referrals to my peers. I am also the Chair Leader at Mbagathi District Hospital of a self-help group called ‘Ange de la vie’.
It is all evident that I am a fully transformed product of Nairobits. Nairobits has equipped me with Information Technology skills and life skills which I am using to exploit the opportunities which I have in life. Nairobits has built my levels of confidence. I become very bold and ready to face whatever challenge that each day comes with.
My dream in life is to have a foundation for young women living with HIV, because we have been neglected. The foundation will nurture young women and equip them with life skills and educate them. Women in our society needs to be mentored for them to be independent and not vulnerable to the society as there are foundations on women but not much for young women. I would do advocating and train others to be advocates, I will lobby, advocate, referral services, economic empowerment to the young women and health talks inclusive of Sexually Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). I believe I can do this because of the experiences I have had in the past and now.
I wish I had this opportunity when I was growing up and I am hoping that it will be given to the future Young People living With HIV (YPLWHIV) especially women that I will be privileged to nurture.
EDUCATION TO ONE WOMAN IS EDUCATION TO THE WHOLE WORLD”