Martin Mwangai was only 15 years old when he first had sex. Little did he know that the encounter with an older woman would be the beginning of a dark chapter in his life that involved sexual, drug and alcohol addiction.
Perhaps if the 24-year-old youth mentor knew that the experience would send him shuttling into the murky world of addiction, he might have thought twice about it.
The reality of the consequences of sex hit him one day when he was 19 years old. It was just after high school and he was in his girlfriend’s house and stumbled upon a packet of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).
Without uttering a word, he left her house.
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“I was confused and shocked at the same time. I did not want to process what this meant. Instead of confronting my girlfriend then, I ran.”
He feared the worst: that he had contracted HIV.
“It felt like my worst nightmare was coming true. I thought it was a death sentence and wanted to move as far away from the problem as possible.”
And run away he did. All the way to Nairobi when an opportunity to study there presented itself.
He thought his life was over. Once in college at the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) where he was studying business management, he turned to alcohol for comfort. Gradually, he started experimenting with bhang and finally cocaine in a bid to numb his fear that he was HIV positive.
PARTY DID NOT STOP
The party didn’t stop as he lived in Ngara in the numerous student hostels. In exchange for sex, Mwangai would buy bhang for girls who were afraid of going to the peddler on their own.
In addition to this, he also became a pimp, where he would provide girls for high end parties that were organised in the area. The girls would have to have sex with him before he handed them over to the party-goers.
“I also frequented night clubs in town almost every day where I would pick up girls for one night stands.”
After completing college, he landed a job at a local microfinance. However, that did not last more than two months.
“I was rude to my boss. He simply asked me to dress better and come in on time. I thought he was overbearing. Deep down, I wanted to talk to someone about my discovery. All this time, I had not been tested yet to know if I was HIV positive. My friends then were all about partying.”
LANDED ANOTHER JOB
Shortly after, Mwangai landed another job at a local hospital where he worked as a steward. Working in a hospital environment made him all the more stressed.
“In between breaks, or when someone at the hospital gave me a tip, I would rush to town in one of the numerous brothels, do what I needed to do, then get back to the hospital.”
One day, his aunt asked him to meet her somewhere in Hurlingham but he accidentally walked into a VCT testing centre. He froze, remembering the fear that had gripped him before when faced with the prospect of getting a HIV test.
In his estimation, death was better than the possibility of finding out he was HIV positive and later that night, he walked through globe roundabout in Nairobi hoping he would be hit by a fast-moving vehicle but nothing happened. One day while he was on the rooftop of the building where he lived, he thought to jump off and end his problems.
Just as he moved closer to the edge, his friend came to hang his laundry and that is how his plans were thwarted.
They never talked about the incident.
“I hated myself and everyone around me.”
He also lost the job at the hospital and had to go back to Kirinyaga. At this point, he was desperate to change his ways for the better. His mum detected that he was not the same and encouraged him to talk to the local priest. He was emaciated and reeling from the withdrawal symptoms of drugs. He also kept much to himself and was anti-social.
His mum tried to prod, but he would not open up. He felt that what he had to say would be too much for his mum to handle.
“Our family was friends with the said priest so my mum hoped I would talk to him as a man and in turn she would find out from him what the matter was. Instead, I did a confession in church, that way he would not tell my mum.”
The confession helped unload the burden he had been carrying. So did moving back home as the drugs were now difficult to find.
He also changed his mobile number in a bid to wade off the bad company he had back in the city. A friend advised him to seek guidance and counselling at the hospital due to his drug addiction.
As he was being treated for drug addiction by the psychiatrist, he opened up about his other vice and that his when he was referred to another doctor still within the facility who diagnosed him with sex addiction. He also finally gathered enough courage to get a HIV test which, to his utter relief, turned out negative.
“I led a hopeless and desperate life for three years. My advice to the youth would be to choose friends wisely. If someone is not adding to your life positively, let go.”
Mwangai is today the chairman of the Kirinyaga Environment Forum which is a group that mentors the youth on productive engagements such as tree planting and entrepreneurship.
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