Mary Esther is 23 years old and comes from Dagoretti in Nairobi, Kenya – the largest urban informal settlement in Africa . She works as an actress and volunteers as a peer educator, raising awareness about sexual health among young people in her neighborhood.
In 2017, Mary Esther brought together her two passions: theater and health, creating a small theater group to raise awareness about sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV, prevalent among young people in the area.
According to the National AIDS Control Council, in 2013, 51% of new HIV infections occurred among adolescents aged 15-19. There is a lack of knowledge among young people about the disease. Sometimes they even ignore that they are infected. The Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey 2012 shows that only 17.4% of adolescents had adequate knowledge of HIV prevention and treatment.
Mary Esther promotes more information about the disease through a technique called “magnetic theatre”, a street theater performance. In the play, she pretends to be infected or to be the friend of an allegedly infected person. She reacts in a histrionic way, showing her fear, so that people on the street watching the performance can see, though in an exaggerated way, what it might mean to have HIV.