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Joe Muriuki, first Kenyan to go public about HIV status, dies of cancer

Joe Muriuki, first Kenyan to go public about HIV status, dies of cancer
February 16
10:15 2022

Joe Muriuki, the first Kenyan to go public about HIV status, has died.

He had lived with HIV for over 30 years.

His death was confirmed by the National Empowerment Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK) in a statement on social media.

The organisation said he died of cancer and had been receiving treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital for two years.

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According to NEPHAK, on September 20, 1987, Muriuki went public with the news that he had tested positive for HIV and became the first Kenyan to do so. He was told by his doctors that he had only three months to live.

At the time, his wife was three weeks’ pregnant with their third child, which some doctors advised her to abort owing to the fear of the foetus being infected with HIV.

Once in an interview, Muriuki revealed that the stigma he was experiencing led to his relocation from Nairobi to his home town in Nyeri.

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“Everybody was looking at me like an alien when they learnt of my status and even at work, my chair had to be thrown away. I, therefore, decided to travel home to Nyeri to go and die there,” he was quoted as saying.

When his son was born HIV negative and he outlived the three months given to him, he realised the many misconceptions around the condition and decided to educate himself and the whole country about HIV.

He was part of a team that came together to start NEPHAK and served at the HIV tribunal as a representative of people living with HIV.

He was also a member of the regional task force that worked on the formulation of the East African HIV/AIDS management Act. In 2017, he applied to be nominated to the East African legislative assembly in order to represent people living with HIV.

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For nearly 27 years, Muriuki resisted antiretrovirals (ARVs), adding that he maintained a stable CD4 count of over 400 through a healthy diet, keeping active and a positive attitude.

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