Photo: By Fredrick Nzwili
In Kenya, HIV-positive pastor and wife model new thinking about AIDS
NTHANGE, Kenya – They tried to burn down his church and home.
But the arson was hardly the worst of the grief pastor Samson Mulinge Mutuse has suffered because of others’ fear of AIDS.
AIDS killed his wife in 2013 and his 13-year-old daughter the next year. And when his flock found out that Mutuse himself tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, many abandoned him – and some thought his diagnosis justified the burning of his church.
In Nthange – a small sleepy trading center about 125 miles east of the Kenyan capital where Mutuse pastors Deliverance Church – AIDS has wreaked havoc. The same is true of much of the continent. In 2016, nearly 20 million people were living with HIV in eastern and southern Africa, representing the vast majority of people carrying the virus worldwide, according to the United Nations.
As in many Kenyan towns, where Christianity and African traditional religion mix freely, people in Nthange dread the virus. Under the giant baobab trees, and in coffee and tea shops, they speak of it in whispers. Those who contract the virus face exclusion once their HIV-positive status becomes known.