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Celebrating the life of Inviolata Mmbwavi

Kenyan AIDS activist Inviolata Mbwavi died on 29 July 2020 in Kakamega, Kenya, at the age of 48 years. 

Ms Mbwavi was the first Chief Executive Officer of the National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV in Kenya. At the time of her death she was the National Coordinator of the International Community of Women Living with HIV, Kenya Chapter (ICW-Kenya). ICW-Kenya exists to support an enabling human rights environment, promote gender equality and address the HIV-related vulnerabilities and needs of women and girls. ICW-Kenya also works to respond to HIV among gay men and other men who have sex with men and transgender people, supports legal frameworks enabling trade and intellectual property legislation for improved access to affordable essential medicines and commodities and campaigns against violence and discrimination against key populations.

For Ms Mbwavi, the responses to HIV and to other underlying social, economic and legal factors were equally important. She was uncomfortable with an HIV response that does not question why more girls than boys and more women than men are living with HIV in Kenya and the wider African continent decades after the advent of the epidemic.

Ms Mbwavi was an active member of a civil society coordination group on HIV and tuberculosis and collaborated with UNAIDS in pushing for an HIV response that values and recognizes the contribution of civil society and affected communities.

“Inviolata Mbwavi was a fierce advocate for gender equity, safety and dignity. She was a passionate activist and leader who broke barriers for women and for civil society and was one of the first women living with HIV to serve in a Country Coordinating Mechanism. Her leadership qualities and desire to serve were further demonstrated when she twice ran to be a member of parliament.” 

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