Kevin (left) with his father in their home village. (Photo: Olivier Asselin)
Kevin counsels a patient at the Centre NDA. (Photo: Olivier Asselin)
Watch the inspiring story of Kevin and his father, produced by the Gates Foundation's Living Proof Project.
Kevin, son of a chief in rural Côte d’Ivoire
, was 32 years old and living in the capital city of Abidjan when the fevers started, followed by diarrhea, typhoid, and anemia. Within months, his weight dropped to 114 pounds, and he moved back to his family’s village. Kevin's story might have ended there, all too typically, but for a wise and caring father’s advice: Get tested for HIV.
Kevin went to the Centre NDA in Dimbokro — a health center supported by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) — where he took an HIV test. The nurse who provided post-test counseling asked Kevin to identify someone to whom he could disclose his HIV-positive status. With some trepidation, Kevin chose his father.
“I wondered how he would react. Would he reject me?” Kevin recalls. “When I told him, he said, ‘You’re my son, and I’m not going to reject you because of an illness.’ From then on, I became more confident. My father accompanied me to all my appointments, he made sure that I took my medications, he paid for my prescriptions.”
Kevin started on antiretroviral therapy (ART) at the Centre NDA, and as of September 2007, he was one of nearly 35,000 patients in Côte d’Ivoire receiving Foundation/PEPFAR-supported ART.
Fifteen months later, Kevin was free of HIV-related infections and his weight had rebounded to 140 pounds. And now, four years since his diagnosis, Kevin is still healthy. He works full-time as a community HIV counselor at the Centre NDA, helping other HIV-positive clients who are facing the same issues he faced a few years ago. Kevin's father remains one of his strongest supporters.
Kevin is engaged to a young woman who manages a small restaurant. When they first began their relationship, Kevin encouraged her to be tested: She learned that she is also HIV-positive. At that point, Kevin told her about his positive status.
Kevin's message, based on his own experience, is that being tested is the first step toward transforming HIV/AIDS from a death sentence into a positive life. Citing his father’s lifesaving role, Kevin urges families to support those with HIV/AIDS and enable them to enjoy a normal life.
“My wish,” Kevin says, “is that everyone’s parents be like my father.”