In Memorium: Inviolata Mwali Mmbwavi

July 30, 2020

All of us at AVAC are deeply saddened by the untimely demise of Inviolata Mwali Mmbwavi, a fearless leader who devoted her life to fighting for the right to treatment and dignity for people living with HIV in Kenya. She brought this same spirit as a passionate advocate for HIV prevention.

“I would not wish HIV infection to happen even to my worst enemy. I will do whatever it takes within my ability to speak out and support prevention efforts to stop any single HIV infection where I can,” Inviolata told guests at an HIV Vaccine Awareness Day event in Nairobi last May.

Invio, as she was fondly known, worked closely with AVAC around HIV prevention for women, mentoring an AVAC Fellow, advocating for HIV vaccine research and lately around the COVID-19/HIV intersection. At a media webinar this year she presented the results of interviews she had conducted among Kenyan women living with HIV on how the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting their access to treatment.

As one of the first people in the country to publicly declare her HIV-positive status, Inviolata used her oratory gifts to fight HIV stigma and discrimination, from the rural villages of Kenya to the highest national political levels. She became a role model for positive living for youth and adults alike. Her actions contributed directly to the gradual shift in attitudes and HIV policies in the country.

In her life, Inviolata endured HIV stigma, opposition, ridicule and bouts of life-threatening illness, but always rose again to come back to her life’s work for the benefit of Kenya’s women.

Inviolata was the National Coordinator of the International Community of Women Living with HIV- Kenya Chapter (ICW-K). She launched a 3-year strategic plan for the organization in 2018, and worked tirelessly to fundraise and implement its holistic approach to HIV/AIDS care and treatment for women.

We echo the statement by NEPHAK, where she earlier served as founding executive director: “The history of the response to HIV in Kenya will not be complete without the mention of Inviolata Mmbwavi.”

AVAC sends sincere condolences to Inviolata’s beloved daughter and extended family.

Rest in peace and power, Invio.

photo of Inviolata Mwali Mmbwavi