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I did not know I had HIV! Two teenagers narrate their life journey with the virus

Millicent Wakio found out about her HIV status when she was 13 years old. Not from her parents but from a nurse.

She was born with the virus.

Millicent was not only shocked but angered too.  She had to go through several counseling sessions to accept her status.

At the age of 16, when she was just doing well, and without informing anyone, she stopped using her drugs, citing stigma from her peers.

For three months, she did not take her drugs. At this point, the symptoms almost killed her. She was very sick and stayed in the hospital for a month.

Since then, she has been taking her drugs and says nothing will make her stop her drugs.

“I remember that I almost lost it, my mother coming to my hospital bed and crying.  I will forever take my drugs,” Millicent said.

The 20-year-old has since been a motivator to adolescents struggling to take drugs.

“Once you accept your status, then it is easy to take your drugs. Once you drop them, then it will not be long before your tribute is done,” she says.

My parents were transparent with me

“It is not easy to disclose your status to the person you are dating. You have to keenly observe and be sure that the person you are opening your life to will not lead the gang that will come to mock you,” says Collins Isichi who hails from Lang’ata, Nairobi and was also born with the virus.

“I didn’t know I was living with HIV/Aids until I was 14 but I had been taking ARVs. But one day my parents explained everything. Since then, I have been taking good care of myself and taking my medication.”

Collins, 18, appreciates his parents for being honest and straightforward because it helped him accept his situation. “I don’t mind living positively publicly. That is my own way to contribute to helping more young people living with the virus take their medication. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

The young man, like Mildred, discloses that thanks to ARVs, he rarely catches even a cold.

“I honestly don’t remember the last time I even had to deal with malaria, taking ARVs is very easy, you just get a hold of your pills as prescribed and put them in your mouth and chase with a glass of water while making sure you do it on time and the more you take your medication as instructed, the more your viral load goes down.”