Dr. Stella Bosire
Vice Chairman of HIV/AIDS Tribunal of Kenya
“I have decided to use science for social good,” declares health professional Dr. Stellah Bosire. Dr. Bosire is a passionate empath whose connection to her patients has driven her to look at her work as “beyond the stethoscope.” “My work involves getting out there, speaking to policy makers... being engaged in minority communities,” she continues. Her desire is to look at health through the lens of human rights. Not only emphasising that access to healthcare is a human right that is too often denied to groups like sexual minorities but also clarifying that those on the fringes of society, due to factors involving gender, age, and mental health, to name just a few, are often placed in high risk situations that are detrimental to their health.
Dr. Bosire’s understanding of this is all too personal. She grew up impoverished in Kibera, with a mother who had schizophrenia and sexual abuse rife in her community and her home. She witnessed babies and young children dying from preventable diseases and would wonder, “Why is it ok for people to die in my community from diarrhea?” It took a while for Dr. Bosire to be granted what she terms “the opportunity to be seen” which is so important for the resilience of the human spirit, especially in adolescence. Against all odds, she found herself at State House Girls with the option of three meals a day for the first time in her life. Seeing it for what it was, Dr. Bosire grasped tightly on to the academic path that opened itself up for her.
Today Dr. Bosire works as a researcher, advisor and a human rights proponent, highlighting the needs of disadvantaged communities and cohorts like adolescent girls, who make up 50% of new HIV cases in Kenya every year, sexual minority groups, where transgendered women experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault and mental health issues such as PTSD and depression, and young mothers, where the rate of maternal and infant mortality is rising annually due to entirely preventable diseases. Dr. Bosire further predicts that cases of depression, anxiety and PTSD will only increase with the next generation. To her frustration, she is constantly fighting against hindrances to progress in equal access to healthcare including bureaucratic corruption, cultural expectations and traditions, geographical access and poverty.
But most important, Dr. Bosire continues, is that we look at healing at a community level. “A community that heals itself, is a community that thrives.” To that end, she has established the Stellah Bosire Fund which aims to address health and development from a different perspective: where youth are placed front and center and empowered to communicate and learn about reproductive and mental health needs. The Fund places an emphasis on building resilient communities and empowering them to manage health issues themselves.
Dr. Bosire is also the Vice Chair of the HIV/AIDS Tribunal of Kenya where they adjudicate on human rights abuses against people with HIV/AIDS and Board Chair for the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commision. In doing so, she is part of platforms where justice and dignity are offered to people who are often denied it. People, perhaps, like her mother, who deserved both but did not quite receive either in full. With Dr. Bosire blazing her trail, equal access to healthcare, and therefore justice and dignity, feels like it is within reach.