How Cleopatra Wanjiku, 27, has beaten HIV stigma since birth

Cleopatra Wanjiku
Cleopatra Wanjiku. [Photo: courtesy]

At the age of 13 years, Cleoptara Wanjiku Machira got the shocker of her life with news that she was HIV positive.

She was with her grandmother at the clinic and life changed completely for her.

Now 27 years old, she recalls her hardest time being in high school where she had to hide her medication and status but not for so long.

“I felt different. Children can be unkind you know. When I joined Kiine Girls High School, in Kirinyaga in 2008, I tried my best to adhere to my treatment, but it wasn’t so easy due to the fear of stigmatisation once people saw me taking drugs,” says the now fine woman grew up in Karura, Mathira Constituency.

Wanjiku then decided to carve a career path in taking care of HIV patients and pursued a career in Public Health, with a major in Community Health and HIV Management.

She got admitted to Mount Kenya University where she pursued the course and volunteered at the Thika Level Five Hospital.

Wanjiku later worked with several NGOs among them, Center for Health Solutions, National Organisation of Peer Educators, Women Fighting Aids in Kenya and Positive Young Women Voices.

In 2017, she took a shift from her advocacy career and joined the fashion industry where she became a key figure in fashion design. She established Pabaa Collections whose key area is African attire and African jewelry.

In 2018, life took a toll on her and she decided to drop out of school and focus on growing her business but also drop her medication.

“I stopped attending clinic and taking medication. I was tired, exhausted, angry and most probably frustrated. I defaulted for almost a year and my health deteriorated. I remember my friend taking me to hospital where I was put on care again. The very person who gives hope to the discouraged was here being given hope.

“The health workers were disappointed. I had let them down. I never thought I’d make it, let alone make it out sane, but I did and through it all, I learnt that the human spirit possess strength that each and every one of us has the power to grow through our worst nightmares. Out of their support, I got back in good shape and went back to mentorship and of course achieved my undetectable status, this being my biggest achievement,” she told People Daily.

Having a close shave with death, she established ‘The Voice of a Black Child’, an online platform which allows those living with HIV to speak openly on issues affecting them that they would not talk about to other people.