Kenyan student, Musyoki, is fighting HIV in his prison with support from MTV Staying Alive
When I was first incarcerated, I did not wallow in desolation when I was imprisoned. As time went by, I gradually got accustomed to the routine. I made new friendships and in the midst of prison life, I began noticing the unimaginable.
I used to hear men talking about having sex with other men in prison. These men willingly had unprotected sex, since prisoners are not allowed to possess condoms.
I really don’t know who’s to blame for this unending issue that sadly led to the death of Omondi, one of my cellmates in July, 2012. Unfortunately, Omondi didn’t die of a common cold; he died of HIV-related causes.
Omondi is one of many people who got infected with HIV in prison. He told me how he was raped during his second night in prison, 8 years ago. He never shared or reported the incident due to fear. He only discovered that he had HIV a year before his death, when some people had brought free HIV-testing services to the prison.
I wish I knew what I now know about HIV, maybe I could have helped him. If I had the power, I would put an end to the rape and abuse that contribute to the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in prison. New prisoners are always the victims of this ordeal. They are drugged and later on raped when unconscious. To make the situation worse, the stigma associated with HIV has caught up with both the prisoners and wardens.
Things have started to change, however, thanks to the community-based organisation Amazing Youth Centre (AYC), and the support they receive from the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. Over the last year, AYC has trained 29 prisoners, including me, to become peer educators who share information about HIV with their fellow prisoners. We always encourage the prisoners and wardens to visit the prison’s voluntary counselling and testing centre so they can find out their HIV status.
With help from AYC, we’ve raised awareness of HIV in our prison and prisoners have gained the right to information about HIV. As a result stigma against prisoners living with HIV has reduced. Most prisoners are not afraid to talk about their HIV status anymore. The prison administration has also introduced a special diet for prisoners living with HIV.
3 years ago, I never imagined I would be in a prison. But now that I’m here I will do everything I can to leave this place a lot better than I found it.
MTV Staying Alive is also fighting HIV in prisons in Rwanda. Find out more here.