Growing up with HIV in Kenya

My name is Odep. I am a heartfelt individual with a keen desire to help others. My desire and passion lies with children and adolescents who have experienced hardship throughout their lives. As an individual born with HIV, who has lost many loved ones and experienced firsthand living on the streets of Eldoret, Kenya, I feel a distinct connection with what many children and adolescents are going through. I have positioned myself within the Eldoret community as a spokesperson for young adolescents living with HIV and advocate for the health and well-being of street children. I love sharing my story to anyone, anyplace, and anytime.

Currently, I am working as a volunteer peer navigator with the AMPATH-Kenya prevention department. My volunteer experiences consist of me visiting various institutions; prisons, schools, companies and streets (road shows), to share my personal story and advocate on HIV/AIDS in my hometown. Through my work as a volunteer, I have noticed a positive change in the mindset and attitude of people regarding HIV and I am very grateful and humbled that I've been fortunate enough to contribute to this.

In my mentorship work with the street children of Eldoret, I share my personal story of what it was like living on the streets as an adolescent. Personally, I feel that by sharing my story with these children they will be inspired to have more hope in their lives and try to live healthier lifestyles.

In addition to peer mentorship, I also coach the street children football club called SC FC. I am proud to say that we have participated in a numerous tournaments and finished particularly well in each of them. Not only has the team performed well, focusing on the essential tenets of teamwork and goal attainment, but also they have had so much fun competing together and this fills them with hope and laughter. It is great to see children who have experienced so much hardship enjoy themselves. This inspires me to try and give more children similar opportunities. I first handedly know what it's like to be in their position, and I want to provide something positive for them.

Many of my peers look to my fun and outgoing personality for cheering up. Through my rapping and comedic alter-ego, named Fat Prince, I perform artistic and comedic expressive words of encouragement to my peers. Fat Prince represents an outgoing adolescent in western Kenya who brings light to social issues found in our society with a comedic twist. I have found my performances as Fat Prince not only bring laughter to the group of my peers, but also instill hope through my encouragement to stay healthy, despite various social and medical challenges that we all face.

I hope that my combined efforts, as a peer mentor with AMPATH and my experience working with the street children of Eldoret, will one day break the stigma barriers and hardship associated with poverty and HIV for children and youth living in Eldoret. It is my goal to bring together my town of Eldoret and build a welcoming and understanding community. My experiences with conquering my own hardships and coming to accept my HIV status have shaped me into the young man I am today. I am proud of who I am and of what I have overcome. It is my dream to be a role model for those living with HIV and those living on the streets and provide a beacon of hope signifying that they too, can live healthy and fulfilling lives.

My future plans are to attend college and study clinical psychology or a related discipline. This education will give me the necessary knowledge to fulfill my dream of contributing to the betterment of the community that I grew up in.  I plan to do so by continuing to establish relationships with the street children of Eldoret and set an example of what they can achieve. It is my hope that I can encourage the children to pursue education and be successful and contributing persons in our community.

Kenyan school children

Kenyan school children