My name is Symon. I am 16 years old. I am an orphan. I am HIV-infected. Everyone has a story, I will tell you mine.
I grew up in a place called Sioport, small town in western Kenya. I lived with my mother. My father lived in a larger city called Kisumu. One morning, I asked my mother if we could go and visit my father. She looked at me and told me that the man I thought was my father was not indeed my father, but my foster father. I was shocked, confused and in a state of disbelief.
Before I could get over the shock, my mother began to fall sick. She was always tired and did not look very strong. During this time, she said that she would take me to meet my biological father who lived in Busia, a town on the border of Kenya and Uganda. I was very anxious about the trip. Over and over I inquired if he would know me. My mother, who I call “Mama”, smiled in reassurance and told me that I looked very much like him.
Weeks later, we set off to meet my father. I had mixed feelings about the trip but held my mother’s words close to my heart. During the difficult trip I noticed my mother’s health was failing more and more each day. After what seemed like an endless journey, we arrived in Busia. Mama made some inquiries and we weaved our way through the town. She stopped at one shop and spoke at length with a man and then gestured for me to join her. I moved to her side. She looked at me and said simply,
“Symon, this is your father.” I looked searchingly in his face for any signs of resemblance and was relieved to find that we did indeed look like each other. We spoke for a while then Mama told me not to hesitate to go back to him for help should anything happen to her. Then Mama died. She died in her house in Port Victoria.
After the mourning period I wondered what to do with myself. I was confused and I was scared. One morning I decided to go to Busia to look for my father. I looked for him but could not find him and went to the police station for help. Eventually they helped me to find him, but he denied that I was his son. This was very painful for me. Thankfully though the courts intervened and he was ordered to take care of me and educate me. Sadly, my father did not honour his promise to the court. He took me to Mama’s friend and left me there. When she realized my father was not coming back, she took me to my grandfather’s place across the border in Uganda.
I started becoming sick. I felt weak all the time. I then started getting boils all over my body. There was pus coming out of one of my ears; people were telling me that I was getting thin. Even when I tried to force myself to eat, I could not eat. I started getting diarrhea. I had diarrhea for such a long time, I thought it would not stop.
My grandfather consulted with a friend and they decided to take me to Kisumu for treatment. I stayed with my foster father in Kaloleni estate. One of our neighbours called Zainabu, took me for treatment at a health centre close to our place. I got some treatment, but did not feel a lot better. Shortly after that she took me to a youth centre for an HIV test. It turned out HIV positive and I was referred to the FACES clinic in Kisumu. At FACES they explained to me what it meant to be HIV positive and did very many tests.
After being taught about the medicine, I started to take antiretroviral medication. I felt much better. My skin became smooth and I didn’t have any more boils or pus in my ears. I really wanted to go back to school. One of the staff from FACES asked different organizations to sponsor me. Many said they could not and it was very disappointing. Finally a group called Christ Hope agreed to take me to boarding school. I like boarding school. I like learning new things. I started coughing and they found out that it was TB; I was started on medicine. Now I am much better. I have never been so happy in my life. Now I am stronger than I would ever have imagined. I say thanks to Christ Hope and to FACES.
At home my nickname is ‘Daktari’ which is Swahili for doctor. I trust and hope that one day this dream will come true.
Note: Names have been changed.