Remembering Wanjiku Kamau

Wanjiku Kamau in Brighton, UK © Shaun Mellors

Frontline AIDS is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Wanjiku Kamau.

A shining light has been taken from us. Wanjiku was a passionate advocate who fought for sexual and reproductive rights for all, and was an inspiration to many of us in the HIV and AIDS and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) movements.

Wanjiku first worked with us in our policy team, and then returned after 10 years as a regional business development advisor based in her beloved Kenya. A skilful networker, she could work a room like no other and wrote many successful proposals for our partnership. She then led the early stages of the PITCH project before leaving the organisation in 2017 to head the AIDS Accelerator, pushing for regional policy change.

We remember and honour Wanjiku as a dear friend and colleague with these tributes below. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all her family and friends, and to everyone affected by this loss.

professor Nana poku, board chair

I learn of this news with great sadness, for this is a terrible loss which has been felt deeply throughout our organisation and the global HIV movement as a whole. Wanjiku’s bright light and passionate commitment to the cause touched all who knew her, as these heartfelt tributes from Frontline AIDS colleagues attest.

I knew Wanjiku personally from our time in Kenya. I had the privilege to work extremely closely with her when developing the Kenya National AIDS Strategic Plan (KNASP) for the country. In seeing the country through her eyes, my team and I were able to develop a very effective and enduring strategy. She was a truly wonderful woman. May she rest in peace.

Wanjiku’s legacy in the AIDS and SRHR movements shines so bright and she is remembered fondly by colleagues at Frontline AIDS.Nana Poku

Christine stegling, executive director

Wanjiku was part of the Alliance from the early 2000s and fundamentally influenced our work with her incredible intellect, her fierceness and her brilliant insights into global politics, always with one foot in national processes and perspectives and always pushing an African agenda in all she did.

I have such fond memories working with Wanjiku, arguing about approaches and the best way of furthering our advocacy agenda. She contributed in so many ways: to our influence work, to forming new alliances across different partners and across different geographies and articulating new ideas that shaped some of our most successful fundraising. She left the organisation in 2017 but there was always a link and a connection through our work.

I also remember the many deep and sometimes hilarious conversations we had traveling together to Geneva, to Amsterdam, to Bangkok. Wajiku wasn’t all work, she was also always a lot of fun even in the middle of challenging meetings or conversations. And, as so many have said in the days since her passing, she could work a room like no other!

The world has truly lost one of a kind. My thoughts and prayers are with Wanjiku’s family, her husband and daughter and the many people she loved. Her work lives on at Frontline AIDS. Rest in power.Christine Stegling

tania kisserli

I remember a tornado coming to the Alliance office the first time Wanjiku came to Brighton after I had joined. She was working with the policy team and her warmth and commitment to her work shone through with a blast of energy. I thought to myself at the time, as a young professional: “Here is a wonderful example of a strong professional woman who embodied diplomacy and confidence while still showing compassion in a way that few can.” And she managed to get people to listen and engage with her. I want to work more like her, I decided.

Wanjiku crossed my path for a few years when I was at the Alliance, supporting various initiatives, and always popping up in meetings, especially when HIV and SRH integration was really being embraced as a non negotiable approach to good HIV prevention and care programming. She was the one who told me the best place to buy those lovely Kenyan beaded sandals (Nairobi airport!) I admired, and gave me some life long tips about navigating my first AIDS conference as a young, female, professional.

She has truly left a legacy, and for that I am eternally grateful. I hope her family find strength in the words of countless people who were lucky enough to cross her path.Tania Kisserli

joannah davis

It’s hard to believe that Wanjiku is gone from this earth. She could turn her hand to anything, combining advocacy, fundraising and representation with panache. My favourite memory is taking silly selfies with Wanjiku on the coach from the Durban AIDS conference to the TAC rally in the town centre.

After so many years working in the HIV response, she still had the energy to carry banners and shout loudly for what was needed and what was right. Joannah Davis

olga golichenko

I thank Wanjiku for everything I learnt from her and what she gave to me and people around her – genuine connection, love, passion, courage and, most importantly, a reminder that it is most important just to be human. Whenever Wanjiku entered the room, something changed. Her energy was very special. With her not being here anymore, I feel something very special is missing. She stays in my and many many people’s hearts and minds – so she is with us!

I can feel her warm smile, gaze, encouraging me to be my best, enjoy life and what I do. Big thank you, Wanjiku, and I miss you!Olga Golichenko

David Clark

I travelled with Wanjiku to Geneva to the Global Fund in my third week in the role. What an induction – every nook and cranny (and politics) of the Global Fund were explained in detail, she knew every single person in the building it seemed. But what really stands out for me was how much I laughed on that trip. Tales of family, life, loss and struggle poured forth with Wanjiku’s warmth and passion infused into every one. I think I knew then I’d joined a very special group of people.

My thoughts are with the many people Wanjiku left behind who loved her.David Clark


paul sagna

I met Wanjiku when she came back to Brighton at the International HIV/AIDS Alliance before she left in 2017. Wanjiku was a woman with a great sense of positivity, commitment and responsibility. She was a great colleague, a friend, a wonderful person in every way. I present my condolences to her family, her friends, colleagues. Her big smile which expresses her “joie de vivre” and her joy of being with her loved ones will remain forever in our memories. We pray for the repose of her soul.

Go in peace dear Wanjiku. You fought the real fight for life and for justice on this earth.Paul Sagna


Enrique Restoy

This is devastating news. Wanjiku was a beautiful soul and a great colleague.

Rest in piece wonderful Wanjiku!Enrique Restoy


Divya bajpai

The first time I met Wanjiku was in 2003, when she arrived in the first Alliance office in Brighton. I remember her as such a fiery, brilliant and beautiful woman. She made such a strong impression on me and everybody else with her passionate words, challenging us to think and act fast as the AIDS movement was changing.

I will never forget ‘working the room’ with her at a Swedish embassy event during the Durban AIDS conference in 2016. She walked up to the most influential people in the room, with a confidence and charisma that meant that her message was impossible to not take on board. We laughed so much together during and after that event. I will treasure that memory.

Wishing us all strength as we remember and honour Wanjiku – a dear friend and colleague. Rest in peace, dear Wanjiku.

Wanjiku was such a force of nature – full of passion, energy, warmth and fun.Divya Bajpai


tamar underhill

I feel so sad and shocked that such a vibrant, warm and passionate person can be taken from us too soon.

Rest in peace Wanjiku and know what a difference to the world you have made.Tamar Underhill