Omar Juma|23.06.2014|Feature Real stories
Addicted to drugs and living with HIV, Omar had lost all hope. But help was just around the corner…

I live in Mnarani, Kenya. My mother died in road accident a few months after I finished my primary education. I was devastated. My education stopped and I was taken in by my Aunt who lived in a town called Mtwapa.

I was jobless until I decided to become a “matatu tout”, a person who tries to attract customers for public minivans (matatus) by shouting the fare price, often at busy junctions and crossroads.

I spent 2 years shouting on streets, jumping up and down, and was sometimes knocked over and injured by vehicles—all for the purpose of earning enough money to buy some bread.

I vividly remember when I was hit by a car and rushed to the local hospital where I stayed for 2 weeks. My legs were broken, my right arm was twisted, and my neck was badly injured. My career as a matatu tout was over. I felt it was the end of my life. I wasn’t important to my Aunt anymore because I could no longer bring in any bread. So, she chased me away and that’s how I ended up on the streets.

Sleeping in cold and rainy corridors, I was introduced to cocaine by my street friend Emmanuel. I started snorting cocaine, eating miraa (Khat), and smoking marijuana. Soon I was using these drugs day in day out.

In 2005 I started injecting all the hard chemicals into my veins. In 2009, a good Samaritan found me unconscious on the street and took me to the hospital. I was bleeding terribly. I had overdosed and forgot about the three needles still in my veins causing me to bleed out as if I were a slaughtered chicken. I was found in a pool of blood.

The doctor told me the following day that I must stop using drugs. He also told me that I was HIV positive. I had got it from sharing needles and syringes with my friend Emmanuel. Again, I felt my life was over.

Omar_drugs_before and after

Then my neighbour, Gibson, came to me with a team from Where Talent Lives, an organisation funded by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, which aims to raise awareness about HIV among injecting drug users.

They settled my hospital bill and took me to the home of the director of Where Talent Lives where I showered, changed clothes, and ate my first fresh and delicious meal on earth. Afterwards, a wave of relief washed over me—I slept well that night.

The following day I met madam Bahati, a counsellor and guide working for Where Talent Lives, who shared a lot with me. I was born again. My life started afresh. I stopped using drugs in 2009 and I’m now working with Where Talent Lives on community-outreach projects  and awareness-raising sessions about HIV and drugs in schools. Although it took me time to accept it, I’m now happy living positive and I appreciate Where Talent Lives for taking me this far.

There are thousands like me out there who are waiting for someone to rescue their lives from drugs. My friend Emmanuel passed away in May, 2010. But I believe that for many others there is still hope.

With the help of supportive funders like MTV Staying Alive, who believe in young people like me and those who run Where Talent Lives, we will be able to save more young the grips of drugs and HIV.

Find out more about Where Talent Lives, click here.

Donate now to help us fund incredible youth-led organisations like Where Talent Lives