70-year-old man raising awareness on HIV in his community 30 years on

Eliud Tuwei lost three brothers to Aids-related complications. [Edward Kosut, Standard]

When Eliud Tuwei tested positive for HIV 30 years ago, he felt lost and was in denial.

Mr Tuwei, a resident of Kapsebwo in Nandi County, would later lose three brothers to Aids-related complications.

Then came the stigma. The situation was compounded by the fact that HIV was still relatively new, the first case having been reported in 1984. 

But Tuwei chose not to lose hope even though there is no cure. The first thing he did was to accept his condition. He then sought treatment that has kept opportunistic infections at bay.

Later on, Tuwei started a campaign to sensitise people in the community who were infected and affected by HIV on how to cope. He also educated those who were not infected on how to protect themselves.

And the campaigns by the father of eight have since gone beyond his local community.

“You defeat HIV by speaking out against it. I learnt that and I have been enlightening communities. And it has worked. People have come to realise testing positive for HIV is not a death sentence,” says the 70-year-old man. 

When The Standard visited him, Tuwei was sitting under an avocado tree outside his house, reading a booklet on HIV and Aids and listening to music.

“It was tough for me when I tested positive in the early 90s. Those days, our health centres were not equipped to test and treat HIV,” he says.

In 2001, a medic who was in a charge of an exchange programme between Indiana University and Moi University, established a clinic at Mosoriot.

“I was among the first patients to be put on ARVs by the clinic that the medic, Joe Mamlin, set up. Since then, I have been strictly following instructions given by doctors,” says Tuwei.

He later registered as a counsellors and also went for training on HIV and Aids management.

For the last three decades, Tuwei who was feted as a hero by the County Government of Nandi in 2017, has helped over 1,800 people living with HIV.

“People book to see me at my home rather than in the hospital. I talk to them under this tree. Some families want me to prevail upon their loved ones to take medication,” says Tuwei.

He says he has family members who are infected across Nandi East, in Nandi Hills and Tindiret sub-counties.

“I offer my services free of charge. I have a motorbike which I use to visit those who need my services. There are those who offer me something after getting my services but I don’t ask for it,” he says.

Campaigns by Tuwei, who is popularly known in his area as Shujaa, have helped reduce stigma against affected individuals.

Sally Samoei, one of the beneficiaries of Tuwei’s services, said: “I was able to get back to my feet after receiving counselling and moral support from him.”

Richard Bwaley, the HIV and Aids coordinator in Nandi, admitted that stigma keeps those infected from seeking medication.