I was enjoying the pleasures of being the last born, but all of a sudden, the world was against me. I had moved to the village from Kololo to Mbarara, where life was different, but soon, my family was no more.
HIV/AIDS EXPERIENCES PAIN
At the age of 10, Kenneth Kimuli aka Pablo lost his father to a mysterious disease in 1988. The same disease claimed Kimuli's mother in 1993. Pablo's four siblings also succumbed to the disease.
"At first, I did not know that it was HIV/AIDS because no one told me. I was young and did not care much about the cause of their death," Pablo says. Pablo, a renowned comedian, says it was not easy for his parents to get medication, although they were from a well-to-do family.
"My father would be given pawpaws, I think for his nutrition," Pablo says. The disease left Pablo's family divided. He explains that some of the children were raised by their relatives in Masindi, Mbarara and Kabarole districts.
"We were a great family. As a little boy, I was enjoying the pleasures of being the last born, but all of a sudden, the world was against me. I had moved to the village from Kololo to Mbarara, where life was different, but soon, my family was no more. All that was left was my uncle whom I went to live with," he says. When Pablo grew into a teenager, he thought he had HIV when he developed herpes zoster (infection) on his body.
"It freaked me when I got herpes zoster. It shook me and I thought I had got the virus. However, I was taken for a test and I was found to be HIV-negative, though the results were not given to me, since I was a child," Pablo says. Many of his relatives also died of HIV/ AIDS.
"I did a grave count and out of the 15, only two did not die of HIV/AIDS. The disease has affected us so much and it is time to fight it," he says. The words of his mother still ring in his ears. On her deathbed, Pablo's mother urged his son to be safe and respectful to others.
"My mother said: "I'm going, but I want you to be a good boy. Respect your uncle and everyone. Keep your life safe. The words still live in me. I always get her image of teary eyes as she said them,'' he says. Unlike other people who went through a lot of stigma, Pablo says he did not experience it. "When I went to Mbarara and Bushenyi, few people knew me so they wouldn't stigmatise against me. Maybe, also being young helped me not care much.
At the moment, I have grown to learn that HIV is not the end of the world and we should be past that stage of stigmatising against people," he says. Having gone through the suffering, the stand-up comedian says he is now at the forefront of fighting against the disease.
Pablo formed an organisation called Pill Power Uganda which he runs with a team of youth living with HIV and those affected by HIV/AIDS. He also runs Tanganza Africa Arts, where he arms with life skills young people living with HIV.