Roadside clinic beneficiary now championing an HIV-free transport corridor: Story of Stanley Kabengi

In the serene valleys of Kondoo village in Ainabkoi constituency, Uasin Gishu county, lives a man who is championing a community free from HIV and related diseases. The soft-spoken Stanley Kabengi is a community health worker and now a volunteer outreach worker under the Global Fund HIV programme in Uasin Gishu County, Kenya, which targets truck drivers and men in high-risk settings.
In 2010, Kabengi, the husband and father of a 3-year-old boy, developed skin fungal infections that were not fading away. When he visited one of the health facilities in Burnt Forest for the fungal infection treatments, the clinician advised him to go for HIV testing as his immunity had gone down. Given the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV, he was paranoid about undertaking the test.

A friend told him about the Burnt Forest Roadside clinic, a client-friendly clinic where he could get tested for HIV, and if found positive, they would walk with him through the treatment and care journey. He took a step of faith, visited the clinic, and had a session with the HIV testing service provider. He tested HIV-positive and was initiated into care and treatment. This was the start of his journey with the North Star Alliance.

For Kabengi, the journey to positive living has not been a walk in the park. Due to stigma, discrimination, and peer pressure, the youthful Kabengi dropped care and treatment and became an alcoholic. His condition deteriorated, and he was on the verge of death. He developed TB with a viral load of over one million, a CD4 count of 7, a BMI of 16, and a thinly weighted 40 kg.
Through follow-ups and with the help of the family, Kabengi was brought back to the clinic, re-enrolled into ART, and initiated into TB treatment. He was then taken through adherence and stigma counselling. Since then, Kabengi has regained his full health, has never suffered TB again, and is virally suppressed. In 2017, Kabengi was blessed with a wife, and they are a discordant couple.
In the community, everyone knew his story, and people who tested HIV positive and were undergoing similar challenges would visit him for consultation. The visits made him realise that he was gifted in talking, counseling, and community work. His love for his community grew. “Many of the people who tested HIV positive and were facing similar challenges I went through visited my house for help, and I walked with them through the journey,” he says. He does not want any of his community members to go through his experience. In 2015, Kabengi started volunteering as a community health worker, championing an HIV-free community.

Kabengi joined NorthStar as a peer educator before he was promoted to Outreach Worker in 2022. As a volunteer, he is responsible for planning and conducting outreaches targeting truck drivers and men in high-risk settings and transport corridor communities, health education, demystifying myths around HIV/TB and sexually transmitted infections, writing summaries of peer educator reports, and mapping the hotspots. Kabengi finds fulfilment when he sees people who are at risk and reluctant to go for HIV testing, because of knowledge passed on to them during the outreach sessions, step up and seek health services. “Through the outreaches and behavior change communication sessions, stigma has been reduced, and more people are getting tested and accepting their HIV status. It is also fulfilling to see communities embrace and support people who are living with HIV more than before.” Said Kabengi.

Through the outreaches and behavior change communication sessions, stigma has been reduced, and more people are getting tested and accepting their HIV status. It is also fulfilling to see communities embracing and supporting people who are living with HIV more than before.

He has set up a support group for truck drivers who are living with HIV. The support group meets quarterly to check on each other, ensure adherence to ART, and instill positive health-seeking behaviour.
His passion to support his community is vivid, and when the community needs to find love, reassurance, care, and access to health services, they know they can count on him.

The efforts of volunteers like Kabengi are key to the realisation of the UN 95:95:95 goal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *