The first Kenyan to go public with the news of his Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) positive status, Joe Muriuki is dead.
He was battling oesophagus cancer and had been receiving treatment at at the Kenyatta National Hospital for two years.
National Empowerment Network of People living with HIV/Aids in Kenya (NEPHAK) yesterday announced his death to the world, eulogizing him as an icon, hero and a founding member.
Muriuki, who lived with the virus for 35 years, died on Monday at a hospital in Kiambu County. He was 62 years old.
“At a time when HIV was the new scary disease in town with no known treatments and a lot of stigma, Muriuki abandoned his duties at the NCC, packed his bags and relocated back to their rural home in Nyeri with the family,” Nephak said in a statement.
Recounting the events of September 20, 1987, Nephak stated that the challenge was exacerbated by the fact that Muriuki’s wife was only three weeks pregnant with their third child and doctors advised the couple to abort the fetus.
Muriuki, a little-known Nairobi City Council (NCC) worker at the time, announced to the world on September 20, 1987 that he had contracted the dreaded virus that was shaking humanity both locally and internationally.
Muriuki found himself in uncharted territory when he came out publicly at a time when the stigma was at an all-time high, frequently facing public ridicule and stigmatisation.
Living with HIV was a nightmare in the 1980s, the disease was primarily associated with gay men and extreme hedonism, and information about the new scourge ravaging the world was scarce
Muriuki had to deal with adversity on a daily basis beginning with his office where he was demoted to a lower position and his seat was taken by his in-laws, who wanted his wife to defect.
He eventually quit his job and relocated to Nyeri to await his demise.
He was stunned by the treatment he received from both friends and colleagues because he never considered himself as a person of loose morals.