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Joe Muriuki: The first Kenyan to go public about his HIV status is dead

 Dr Joe Muriuki [Courtesy]

Today, February 15, 2022, the National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK) announced the demise of one of its founder members, Dr Joe Muriuki.

Through a detailed post on social media, the network lauded Muriuki’s achievements ever since he went public about his HIV status on September 20, 1987.

At that time, he was serving as an accountant at the Nairobi City Council and due to the stigma and uncertainty that surrounded the disease, he resigned and moved to Nyeri with his young family.

“I was a normal young man with a normal lifestyle. I had a promising career as an accountant at Nairobi City Council.  I had been losing weight and having other standard symptoms associated with HIV but I assumed it was malaria. The doctor ran various tests including one for HIV. On getting the results, the doctor stood and started pacing to the window.”

Muriuki knew that something was deeply wrong. The doctor turned to him and dropped the bombshell that would define his life henceforth.

“Muriuki, the tests show that you might be HIV positive. You are the first patient I’ve come across with the disease,” the doctor pronounced.

At the time, he was told he only had three months to live

In a previous interview with The Standard, Muriuki revealed how he was among the first people to take Kemron, a drug invented by Kenyan researchers that was released in 1991 and was said to be effective in treating AIDS.

“The researchers kept on assuring us that the drug would cure us. I took Kemron for about two years (1991-1992) before calling it quits. As far as I can tell, it didn’t help me. But who knows, Kemron was later found to act as interferon so maybe it helped with the management of the virus,” he said.

Further, he mentioned how the first combination of ARVs affected the production of red blood cells in his body and he often experienced extreme fatigue.

Also read: I resisted ARVs for 27 years: Meet the first Kenyan to go public about his HIV status

This was later changed and he gradually got better.

Prior to his demise, Muriuki served at the HIV tribunal as a representative of people living with HIV. He was a member of the regional task force that worked on the formulation of the East African HIV and Aids Management Act. 

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