Benson’s problems with alcohol began after the disintegration of his marriage. Following the birth of their daughter in 1989, Benson says the relationship with his wife was like living on a roller coaster.
“It was up, down, up, down,” he explains. “We lived like enemies.”
When Benson’s wife left to return to the home of her parents, taking their young daughter with her, he turned to alcohol to help him numb the pain.
“I started drinking like crazy,” he says in a gruff voice. “It pains me even talking about it.”
Despite his drinking, Benson maintained a relationship with his daughter, who is now married with a child of her own, and was eventually able to build a friendship with her mother. Tragically, Benson’s struggle with alcohol left him exposed to a number of other problems, and, in 1999, he found out he was HIV positive.
“I stayed in bed for one whole month,” he says. “My body was so weak, and I didn’t know what happened.”
Benson explains that back in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, many clinics in Kenya were hesitant to share test results with their patients. Oftentimes those who were, in fact, HIV positive were simply given medicine to take and sent home. This is what happened to Benson.
“It was taboo to talk about, even when I was admitted to the hospital,” he says. “I kept thinking, ‘Why am I taking these drugs?’ And then I went to a clinic and they asked if I wanted to be tested for HIV. I said, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’ve been waiting for!’”
CARE for AIDS entered Benson’s life when he overheard a group of women talking about the center.
“It’s a real community,” he says of his experience there. “And when I meet people who are also sick, they talk about [HIV]. I come every week and it’s useful. We talk…and I have a new hope.”