I can really measure my impact
I can really measure my impact
24-years-old Jerop Limo from Kenya dedicates her life to motivating her peers in living positively. We spoke with her about challenges in treatment adherence for young people, the impact she creates with her work, and the long road she traveled herself to become the strong, radiant peer educator that she now is. “I owe it to myself that no one with HIV lives in fear because of HIV”. Meet Jerop!
What makes it difficult for young people to keep taking HIV medication?
Test & treat
There are multiple reasons. First of all, you don’t just test and immediately put someone into care. Neither should it be that you just collect your medication and go home. It’s a process, whereby young people don’t want to talk to older people, they want to talk to you. Seeing that I am doing well inspires others to take their medication.
Furthermore, stigma is a big issue in Kenya. It holds you back from everything. Especially young people are judged. As peer educators we are encouraging young people to accept themselves, to love themselves, because self-stigma is the biggest issue.
When you turn 18 everyone assumes you are grown up enough to take your drugs yourself and eat well. But at this age, young people want to fit in, want to enjoy life, and feel that HIV limits them. They don’t even know how to disclose. So if there is no one to support them, they tend to drift back.
Unfortunately, peer educators stop because of lack of stipends. As a result, community support groups fall apart and young people have no one to relate to.
What happened when you found out to be living with HIV?
A lot to deal with
When I was five years old my mother was subjected to violence because of her HIV status. My younger sister also passed away because of HIV a year later. It was a lot to deal with. So when I found out my status - I was around 10 years old- I was really scared because I thought I had to go through all the things my mom had gone through.
I ran out
It took me a really long time to accept my status and take my medication. One time in high school, the drugs fell out of my bag and someone shouted ‘those are ARVs!’. I ran out and started crying. The following day everyone was talking about it and it affected me in the worst way.
I decided to stand up and talk about everything in my head. Everyone was shocked, including the teachers. I owe it to myself that no one with HIV lives in fear because of HIV. So my motivation has been there ever since I was in school. I created a support group in high school for people living with HIV. They came to talk to me, we shared and we stuck by each other. I was not alone anymore.
I was not alone anymore
- Jerop initiated an HIV support group in high school
What is the impact of your peer education activities?
The impact it had on people at school has been great, they are telling me that I do great work. It has helped me to know that the community can also support people living with HIV as long as they are informed.
I have been sharing my story on social media and I’m a blogger. Reactions on my posts are massive, people ask how I got the courage, when I would share my next blog, they want to talk to me and meet me to share their own experiences. This highly motivates me.
When I became a peer educator at a health facility, the adherence in terms of young people’s viral load was around 50%. When I left it was 86%, so many of them had improved. And in support groups, women much older than me feel comfortable to ask me anything and tell me to take care of their children. When parents trust you with their children it is something.
So I can really measure my impact. This keeps me going and pushing.
No young person living with HIV needs to feel limited and everyone can live a full fulfilling life - Jerop
What is your mission towards the future?
No young person living with HIV needs to feel limited and everyone can live a full fulfilling life. I currently study counseling and psychology and I would like to continue counseling young people. There is a need for more peer educators so I want to train many young people. I will push to ensure we have peer educators in as many facilities as possible. I also see my future leading my own project in Kenya for young women living with HIV.
About Jerop Limo
Jerop works for Ambassadors for Youth and Adolescent Reproductive Health Programme (AYARHEP) as peer educator. AYARHEP is partner in the YouthWise project, that aims to amplify the voices of young people living with HIV in Kenya and Malawi to enable them to practice self-care and fulfil their sexual and reproductive health and rights needs.