There are two two acronyms that people can not get their minds around. People automatically associate them with death. Yeah! I know many have died of HIV and AIDS related complications. Well, truth is, many have also succumbed to cancer, diabetes, and other conditions.
Other people associate HIV with a gold mine. They hear you mention these words and immediately someone wants to sell you their ‘natural cure’. I mean, if you can take ARVs for that long, you might as well be hooked on whatever other concoction they may hook you up on.
They tell you that ARVs have side effects that damage your internal organs. I am not a medic, but from the little knowledge I have, all drugs are toxic to the body. Even the supplements and herbs that we buy can be toxic to the liver.
The logic is, your life is worth investing in, right? People spend arms and legs together with whatever other extra limbs they have just to buy mortality. Fear of death is real, I dare say. The irony is, they end up buying their own death while trying to buy immortality.
Then there is the group that gets hyper religious when they hear you have the ‘plague’. People offer to pray and fast for your healing. Of course, I don’t want to come across as a faithless person. I know God heals. I am a Christian. I’ll just leave it at that, lest I say the wrong thing.
Speaking of Christians. Yes! Let’s just speak of a group of brethren. With pick up lines like ‘where do you fellowship?’ Before you know it, they want to come to your house. ‘Do you mean the flesh is still at work in you?’ they counter your argument against their ideas.
Once in your house, they just can’t keep their hands to themselves. Until you disclose to them that you are living positively with HIV. They then go back yo their hyper spirituality, telling you to believe with them in your healing. They even abruptly turn into nutritional counselors. ‘Now you should avoid eating this and that, your diet should have this and that’. I’m like, “Get a hold of yourself, where were you all those years? I could have used your advise then”.
Then there’s the irksome type that preys on desperate, ignorant prey seeking prayer. Religion is in fact the opium of masses- Karl Marx. Promise anyone divine intervention to alleviate their impending suffering and they will give you anything. I mean, people have sold houses, vehicles even taken their hard earned life savings to these ‘men and women of God’ as seed offerings to pay for their healing.
Sadly, they did not end up so well. For some, it started with Tuberculosis, others Meningitis, while others, cancer, then eventually death.
So yeah, call me faithless, call me a skeptic, you can even call me a coward. I will run with this proverb, that he who fights and runs away, may live to fight another day.
The International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) is a major international AIDS conference which takes place in Africa. Its current biennial hosting alternates between Anglophone and Francophone African countries. The 2015 ICASA was held in Harare, Zimbabwe.
I did not get the opportunity to be part of the conference this year. However, due to my commitment to disseminating news surrounding HIV/AIDS and SRHR issues affecting young people, here is are the outcomes of the youth Pre-Conference.
We young people at the ICASA YouthFront organized Pre-Conference for the 18th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa, held on the 27th and 28th of November 2015 at the Zimbali Conference Centre, in Harare, Zimbabwe, under the theme ‘Agenda 2030: Delivering for Youth in the Post 2015 Era’.
Having noted the tremendous progress in the HIV response in Africa, curtailed with notable challenges in access to comprehensive HIV and SRHR services and effects of HIV on our continent, where AIDS is now the number one cause of adolescent deaths, and disproportionately affecting our young girls and women, as the future generation and young people of Africa therefore, we commit to,
Advocate for the review of punitive and conflicting laws, policies and legal frameworks that impede access to HIV and SRHR services for all – leaving no one behind – including age of consent in our respective countries,
Influence governments to invest in research and development targeted at new prevention technologies that work for adolescents and young people including Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
An Africa youth task-force for prevention research and development.
Influence governments to increase financing for health including increasing domestic financing for the HIV response and reproductive health commodities.
Strengthen and support structures for young people living with HIV to own the HIV response.
Be part of HIV and SRHR policy making processes, implementation and evaluation ensuring meaningful youth participation and accountability including in institutional processes such as the Global Fund.
Lead country level actions to advocate for the delivery of Comprehensive Sexuality Education.
Invest our efforts to participate in the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs framework, including the commitment to End of AIDS by 2030.
Increase our engagement with existing funding and program opportunities like the Global Fund, All in!, DREAMS, Every woman Every Child.
To support fellow young people to dispel myths and disinformation which drive stigma and fuel discrimination. Further ensuring that the human rights and dignity of every adolescent and young person are protected, promoted and fulfilled, without distinction of any kind.
Commit to increased engagement and advocacy with our governments, regional economic communities, the African Union, United Nations agencies and other civil society groups to accelerate efforts towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly targets related to sexual and reproductive health and rights, ending AIDS, investing in education. Raising awareness among policy makers and other stakeholders on the importance of the demographic dividend towards the sustainable development of Africa.
Presented on 28th November 2015 at the closing plenary of the ICASA Youth Pre-Conference.
I keep getting these random calls from strangers seeking counselling of sorts. This is over a year since I went on public TV, and radio to share my story.
Through those phone calls have emerged the most memorable friendships. They have also brought unbearable nuisance in equal measure. One thing is for sure, if you plan to be in the limelight, limit your exposure, at least for your peace of mind. At the end of the day, you are also a human being who can snap with just the right amount of stretching.
Last year, I had to call a radio station’s reporter and complain about their replaying my story without alerting me. I used to be bombarded with phone calls immediately after the program ended. That is how I knew they had played the prerecorded program. They replayed the program five times that year, and this particular time I was going through a rough time, that needed my me time- I snapped.
I have for the past two years been receiving random texts starting with Hae Juliet…. Not from one, but several people. People who want to hold a conversation with you yet it seems their keypad is missing lots of keys. Now reading such texts and trying to figure out what on earth the person meant before trying to respond, in the politest way possible, sometimes is just too exhausting. Not that I don’t try to respond. In fact, my friend Judy used to tell me that I have too much time for nonsense.
Just after a program, I received texts from people proposing to marry me as if I needed rescuing from my desperate state of single-hood. This is not to trash the good intentions of some of those calls and texts. I just don’t see myself responding to a proposal from a stranger whom I have never seen. But then again, maybe I am still in the stone age where for a relationship to work, it has to follow some logical path.
Yes, I have been invited to join network marketing to sell health products. (This was right after coming from a TV program, where the producers put my number on the screen without seeking my consent.) Maybe the lady thought that I needed to use the health supplements and be a brand ambassador. That time, I didn’t have enough money to use for transport back home, let alone the 6000 to join the program. Polite me, I just sat in the meeting and listened, not showing my disappointment to the well-meaning lady.
Other people have called me to convince their spouses that it is possible to have babies while in a discordant relationship. Imagine myself calling someone’s wife.
Me: Hello, am I speaking to so and so.
Wife: Yes, who is this?
Me: I am Juliet, a counsellor, I got your number from your husband.
Wife: What do you want?
Me: I wanted to let you know that it’s totally safe to have a baby even if your husband is positive.
Wife: How did you know my husband? Are you married yourself….
Ok, maybe I let my imagination run wild. Maybe the conversation would take a better direction.
A recent call I received was when in a matatu. I was going home from work. This call was from a desperate man. Within one minute I had known that he was 32 years, he had two children and suspected his wife of cheating on him. He just wanted to meet me so that I would test him together with his wife for HIV. I told him that unfortunately, I don’t test people any more, but I could refer him to the nearest health center. He hung up…
Welcome to my world, where you have to fish out a smile, even after the most ridiculous conversation. My advice, if you choose to go to the media or get a public platform, DO NOT give your personal contact. I am just a normal Juliet, yet I was overwhelmed by the phone calls.
Julie, loka! This is Luo for Julie Turn me! These words still ring like a bell in my mind whenever I think of Diana. Diana the twelve-year-old girl, who unlike her peers, was not in school. You might be wondering why the hell would a twelve-year-old need to be turned on their bed.
Diana was a client of KENWA who had been admitted in Nairobi Women’s Hospital due to a severe case of jaundice and nose bleeding that had to be stopped by the use of bandages. She had a bandage covering her nose that made her look like Pinocchio- at least from the limited children’s literature that I had access to, I could recall that Pinocchio had a long nose.
Her feet were swollen and her body aching. She had a swollen stomach and her already pale skin, was turning yellow. Diana was born with HIV and her mother died leaving her in the care of her aunt. Someone had to relieve her care giver from staying in hospital looking after her.
As it was, I was the only Community Health Worker, at Kiambiu Drop in Center who was single, so adjusting my program was not so complicated. Besides, the girl only spoke Luo, so I would be more useful to her. Off I went to Nairobi Womens’ to keep her company for the night.
Doctors had labelled her bed, “Strictly no protein diet”. I guess you get my dilemma when it came to convincing this girl that all she could have was black tea. You see, a sick person and a pregnant person have one thing in common. When cravings strike, there’s no convincing them otherwise. I had to also force her to eat, feeding her like a baby, being very careful not to have it come back and create a mess.
Julie Loka! The whole night she woke me up to turn her severally. I tried my best with my left hand to turn the invalid girl who had been heavier due to being bed ridden. I managed it quite well. By the time it was morning, we had become good friends- what with all the stories we shared!
I had to bathe her and feed her before leaving the hospital. It was actually a fulfilling exercise after all. Before leaving, I had a word with her doctor. She told me that Diana was improving and would soon be discharged.
A week later, Diana’s aunt brought the news to KENWA. Diana was no more. Yaani! Gone, just like that. But she was improving, what happened? Yes! I had questions that I could not voice. I cursed HIV which keeps stealing my friends. Though I had spent just one night with Diana, I missed her. I could not believe I would never see her again. That was in 2003.
In 2015, the theme of the World AIDS Day was- Getting to zero: Ending AIDS and stigma among adolescents and young people. Speaking at the WAD celebration at the City Stadium, Kenya’s first lady, Hon. Margaret Kenyatta said that available statistics are worrisome. “For instance, it is unacceptable that 21% of new adult HIV infections should occur among young women of between 15-24 years of age annually”, she said. “Unless we control new HIV infections among this group, our aspirations of becoming a vibrant middle-income economy in the next few years is in jeopardy”, she added.
According to the National Aids Control Council, 262,403 of 1.6 million people living with HIV in Kenya are adolescents and youth.
There’s no hiding that HIV disclosure is still a hard thing, both for the Person Living With HIV and for their family. This is why when someone decides to declare their HIV status publicly, they ought to be commended.
As a person who took this difficult step years back, not because of the pat on the back, but because of dealing with self stigma, I have been keenly following the discourse about Charlie Sheen’s disclosure.
Disclosure frees one from unnecessary burdens borne due to living in the ‘HIV closet’. The closet comes with different for everyone. For Charlie, it came with the burden of having to pay millions to keep people from exposing his status. Other people might just want to have someone listen to them, and reassure them that it is not a life sentence. Better yet, like in my case, it was a freedom that meant I could take my medications in peace without people raising an eyebrow every time I popped the pills.
Ever since Charlie’s great revelation last week, I have read and listened to some not so pleasant comments regarding HIV. It has even been labelled the Charlie Sheen disease. First, HIV is just a condition, it does Not make someone suddenly different. He is still the same person he was even before you knew his status. There are very many people living with the virus and are ignorant of it. In 2014, there were roughly 2 million new HIV infections. Not all of these know their status.
I read an annoying tweet some two weeks before the disclosure, that a solution to global hunger had been found, so African children can live long enough to die of AIDS. Charlie’s disclosure proves that AIDS is not an African disease, rather anyone can be infected. It removes the stereotypes that have been linked to Africa, which Chimamanda terms as dangerous.
That aside, Charlie Sheen has made some not so wise choices in the past. You may hate him for that, but not about his HIV status.
Some facts about HIV
1. HIV is not transmitted through mosquito bites. It is a virus that needs the human body to survive. Once a mosquito bites someone, even if they had HIV, it dies immediately.
2. HIV is different from AIDS. HIV is just a condition that makes your body susceptible to infections when your immunity is low. AIDS is a syndrome- A mixture of opportunistic infections arising from a weakened immune system.
3. ARVs, the drugs used by People Living With HIV, are not only life prolonging. They prevent spread of the virus. That’s why there are so many children who are born HIV free, yet their mothers are HIV positive.
Once a person is on ARV treatment, chances of them transmitting the virus to other people. Ever asked yourself why there are so many discordant couples? This is not to encourage unprotected sex among discordant couples.
Well, we still need people to accept themselves and be comfortable to come out of their closet at will. Let’s not make it difficult for them. Those who find a joke out of Charlie’s status, maybe you should have a HIV test in the process. My two cents.
Wednesday, September 16, was the Global Female Condom Day (GFCD) 2015, and the world’s leading manufacturer of the product announced it has sold more than 500 million female condoms in over 144 countries since launching its product in 1995.
In Kenya, female condoms are rare and expensive. They are available in select donor funded clinics and not many women are aware of their existence. They are mostly associated with commercial sex workers, yet, they provide a great substitute of the male condom. Awareness on the use of female condoms could increase women’s options of contraception methods.
The day was commemorated in Kisumu by PATH, an international health organization that transforms global health through innovation, in conjunction with Keeping Alive Societies Hope (KASH), a local based NGO addressing the health and rights challenges faced by marginalized populations in the Kenya. The day was marked by dancing for demand of female condoms, discussions on the challenges of distribution and condom demonstrations.
The Commercial Sex Workers at the celebrations raised among other issues, the high cost of female condoms compared to the male ones. A female condom retails at 300 Kenya shillings. They also asked questions why female condoms are not packaged in 3’s like their male counterparts. Here is a clip on how it went down.
Dance4Demand, a collaborative initiative by Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights organizations, holds dances globally on GFCD, while advocating for the availability of female condoms. Anyone can organize a dance in their community with resources to facilitate the advocacy efforts provided on their website.
According to Guttmatcher Institute, widespread promotion of the female condom will help to destigmatize the method and normalize it as a potential method for all sexually active women and men, not just those who engage in high-risk behaviors or are living with HIV or AIDS.
The female condom was designed to give women greater control over their own protection, without having to rely on their partners to use a condom. However, many studies confirm that partner cooperation is necessary for women to use the female condom successfully.
Female condoms are inserted in the vagina before sex. An inner ring on the condoms aids in insertion, while a larger, softer ring remains outside the vagina and keeps the condom in place. Like traditional condoms used by men, the FC2 helps prevent pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Improvements on design keep evolving as manufacturers respond to the consumer feedback.
That woman means the whole world to me.
Many are quick to criticize her,
She is more than grandma to me, she’s Ma,
She taught me values in life.
Yes, I am proud of Ma,
Despite what you may call her.
I overheard her telling her sister.
How her daughter killed my brothers and sisters.
That day, Ma walked in just in the nick of time.
Found me crying on the hands of my ma,
About to be baptized in a basin full of water.
“Don’t do it!” she shouted at ma.
She saved me from sharing in my siblings’ fate.
I know she has her weaknesses, who doesn’t?
You dare call her whore, prostitute, loose,
spit unutterable obscenities at her.
You even gossip that she has AIDS,
I simply call her Ma, for she has more than earned that title.
She stepped in when ma wanted me dead.
That’s enough reason to stick my neck for her.
She leaves each morning for work.
Imagined she works in a busy office,
Ma must have had a lot of work daily.
She comes back home tired, hair to toe nail.
Sometimes I pray to God I grow up faster.
At least I would get a job,
At last I would help my Ma out.
Ma wants to hear none of it.
Ma does not make things sound so easy.
“Jobs are hard to come by.” She says.
Focus on books, get a good job in the future
what good is the future without Ma?
A future, taking forever to get here,
Does the future know what Ma goes through?
To bring bread back home,
The bed, her tool, to bring bread to her brood,
A tool that’s left her permanently scarred,
I know it but would rather keep silent,
Ma thinks she’s protecting me, keeping secrets,
I am the one protecting her, feigning ignorance.
I have finally found my tongue on the famous ‘Mollis’ audio that went viral over a month ago. I deliberately stayed mum about it while listening to conversations around it. Some condemning the act as rape while others- get me, even learned women- saying that the lady wanted to what she was getting. “She opened her legs, why are Kenyans creating such a fuss around the issue?” Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I respect that. Which is why I will not knuckle anyone who commented in any way.
Think of a HIV positive lady who has a male friend. They met about two years ago on social media. They have been talking for sometime and have met in public once. The guy is a Christian- a good quality for a prospective boyfriend for Missy. You, see Missy has been in church for sometime now and she’s all too familiar with the phrase, ‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’. HIV positive does not mean you can’t date, does it?
The second time, the guy invites her to his house. From her judgment, she thinks she can trust this new found friend- Missy accepts, after all, there’s no hurry into anything serious (They are still getting to know each other). They agree to meet at a landmark in Eastleigh, where the gentleman- now having added several kilos meets her. She jokes about his weight, “Have you been eating with a blind man?” He laughs as they walk into an alley in the busy estate.
She enters the neat single room with a red velvet carpet and a 21 inch TV tuned to National Geographic. They talk about the future, their likes, their ideal partner, just enough revelations for a ‘first date’. Nothing too deep. The date goes on well until she decides it is time to go. It is dark outside and it’s raining. The nice guy suggests that Missy should wait a little for the rain to subside. “I promise to escort you”, Mr. Nice reassures Missy.
The heavens have decided to conspire against Missy, the born again sister who made the stupid decision to go unaccompanied to this brother’s house. It won’t stop raining. Missy’s thoughts are now unsettled.’How are church folk going to perceive me?” she thinks. Her phone rings. The caller ID is Pastor. She picks the phone to speak to her pastor, while Mr. Nice also receives a call and naturally, he has to speak freely because he is in his house. Missy panics as the male voice is heard in the background. Pastor asks, “Is that the TV in the background?” “Yes dad”, Missy lets out a lie that even she finds hard to believe.
After the phone conversation with her pastor, Mr. Nice starts bad-mouthing ‘pastors of today’. “They are just out there to extort people of their money”. The sudden double speak confuses her.
“I really have to go, the rain has subsided, please escort me to the stage”, she tells him. “I am not going anywhere in this rain”, he tells her. “Aren’t you in a house? Make yourself comfortable, spend the night, you will go tomorrow”, he adds with finality. It’s already 10.30 pm, and it looks like Missy is not going anywhere. She makes calculations in her mind, “I will just sleep on the couch”. She asks for something to cover herself. “Come get this one”, Mr. Nice tells her.
As soon as she goes past the curtain separating the sitting area and the bed, things change. Mr. Nice gets all over her with kisses and caresses. Oh it’s been long since she had someone plant a kiss on her lips. She promised God that she was done with making stupid decisions, so she pulls herself off. He overpowers her as he pins her down with his weight. “Oh God, I should have just left the instance I thought of going. No one melted from being rained on”, she thinks as she frantically tries to free herself from his grip. “Let me go!” she cries.
“This is not a winning battle”, she thinks. “At least use a condom”, she pleads with him severally. He pulls a condom from his wallet, still pinning her down with his body and hurriedly wears it, before continuing with his business. After doing his thing, he rolls over and drifts off to a snort-filled sleep. Missy stays awake all night thinking of what she should do. “Do I get mad at myself or at him?” she thinks.
Two months later, Mr. Nice finds out that Missy is HIV positive. He calls Missy, “Do you know how young my children are?” “Why didn’t you tell me such a thing about yourself?”
“You didn’t let me, that’s why I told you to use a condom”, she answers after a listening to the torrential accusations thrown at her. She chooses not to explain the details of “protecting him”, she just wants this phone call to end so that she forgets it as quickly as possible.
Does it mean date rape is OK? Because judging from “Mollis” clip, and the conversations around it, there is no rape there. What does it mean when a woman says no? Does it mean something different?
My friend Renee Murrey wrote a letter to Mollis’ girlfriend to tell her that it was rape. Renee was also part of a panel on a local TV station talking about the rape culture.
Missy could have been daft, naive, and gullible, but she, like the girl in the audio, told the guy to stop. Mr. Nice decided, “Here’s my chance and I am not letting it go”. She was over-powered by his weight, so pushing him would not have worked. At least she protected him by insisting on a condom.
So the only thing that can get you out of a date rape situation is disclosing your HIV status. That is if the assailant believes you. This must have been the thinking behind South African president, Jacob Zuma when he signed a bill earlier this year to have HIV positive people tattoo their status near their genitals. Something I might write on in a separate post- might!
“The mark is to protect those who can’t say no to sex. I mean if you can’t read between the lines you should read between the legs because that’s where the status would be tatted. The choice to be HIV positive is now in your hands or your genitals for that matter…. We also encourage those who had been living with the virus to go to the nearest public hospitals to get their status tatted in”
On Thursday 20th August, I met a team from Lab & Allied at an event organized by the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE). The panel discussion of three, Mr. Suprakash Mandal, Mr. Anad Joshi, and Mr. Nitya Patel, was enlightening as the panelists engaged the audience, shedding light and demystifying some existing myths in the Kenyan pharmaceutical industry.
Founded in 1970’s, Lab & Allied is one of East Africa’s leading pharmaceutical industries. They specialize in manufacturing generic drugs and distribute them not only in Kenya, but also in the Eastern Africa region.
According to popular belief, generic drugs are perceived to be of a lower quality than their branded ‘original’ counterparts’. In several support groups, I’ve heard People Living with HIV are advised to stick to either generic or original drugs and not step down after using a superior brand of a drug. It is often a confusing affair and I sought to find out from a manufacturer. Mr. Suprakash, Lab & Allied CEO who is a pharmacist by profession, said that the debate on Generics vs Originals is a myth. “Generics are just as good as the branded drugs”, he said.
The manufacture and export of generic drugs was not only a turning point in terms of the price of ARVs, but also helped to revolutionize treatment for resource-poor settings by simplifying HIV and AIDS treatment. In 2001, an Indian generic manufacturer produced a combination of three antiretrovirals (patented by different pharmaceutical companies) into a single pill, known as a fixed dose combination (FDC) . This was only possible because India did not have to abide by TRIPS legislation at this time and was therefore able to ignore the patents on the drugs.
“Lab & Allied does not manufacture ARVs because of the long tendering process involved with the Global Fund and other aid organizations”, Mr. Suprakash said. “ARVs don’t give good margins because they are funded by WHO, and distributed for free. It is therefore not economically viable to manufacture ARVS independently”, he added.
Kenya obtains most of its HIV medicines from India, but the high cost of importation has made it difficult for the government to put all those who need it on treatment. More than 400,000 HIV-positive people are receiving ARVs, but another 600,000 require the drugs and have no access to them. An estimated 1.5 million Kenyans are infected with HIV.
“We however manufacture a range of drugs that manage Opportunistic Infections”, Mr. Suprakash said. An example is Acyclovir tablets used for treating Herpes virus, a common Opportunistic Infection in immune-compromised patients.
Speaking on the effects of technology on the pharmaceutical industry, Mr. Anad Joshi, the head of sales and marketing said that google cannot replace doctors. “Online content creation is good, but people should always consult their doctors”, he said.
Mr. Supracash added that a headache for example can be caused by a number of reasons including a brain tumor. “One of the dangers of drug abuse is self-medication, pharmacists should act ethically by selling Prescription Only Medicines to patients with doctor’s prescription”, he said. Self-medication and abuse of antibiotics are the reasons for drug resistance.
Lab & Allied does not carry out primary research, but invests in adaptive research on original drugs and produce generics. They therefore they do not hold any patents.
Mr. Nitya Patel Lab & Allied’s Business Development Director said that Lab & Allied has different divisions that manufacture different drugs. Their most recent division is the Vecura division dealing with veterinary drugs. “We are also the focusing on drugs that manage three lifestyle diseases, diabetes, hypertension and osteoarthritis”, he said.
Tuesday August 18th DN2 cover story, No baby in my house, by Abuta Mageto about mothers secretly duping their teenage daughters to get contraceptives, reminds me of the secret struggle that parents have. Sexuality has always been a taboo subject in the African setting. Which is why getting most mothers to start the sexuality conversation with their teenage daughters is still a big challenge.
A while back I hosted my 14 year old niece who had just finished primary school. That girl gave me such headache because she was all over being friendly with several men, most of whose intentions were clearly not well meaning. She is a natural beauty, so she was enjoying the glory of catching the attention of men. I feared her getting in trouble- you know pregnant trouble or STIs while she was under my care.
I heard hushed rumors that her grandmother had her injected with contraceptives because she could not handle her. She tried bringing her to me so that as her aunt, I could manage her. After one month, her teenage hormones were too much for me to handle. I say this with remorse because I had to send her back to her grandmother. The remorse is due to the fact that I give a lot of young people counsel on sexuality.
Her mother, my cousin died after long struggle with illness, leaving her and her younger brother as orphans, under the care of grandparents. I was afraid that she might end up with the same story her mother had. These things used to be spoken of in hushed tones, especially if one had been admitted severally in ward 8 of Kenyatta National Hospital, somewhere my late cousin was accustomed to.
Her grandmother the best she could at least to prevent the burden of raising great grand children by secretly putting her on contraceptives. Because she is a Christian, she could not procure abortions for her granddaughter, but many parents do, as Mageto quotes in his article,
Many see children born out of wedlock not only a social burden, but also an unnecessary financial burden in the face of rising inflation, and so, despite the legal restrictions and the medical risks associated with abortion, it is still prevalent in the country.
I tried talking to her about the risks of being sexually active at such a young age. Eventually, I had to send her back to the village, mostly because I was still a student and I could not sustain living with her. This was the time that I also released Earnest and his mother.
As we speak, she has two children with different fathers. I recently spoke on phone with her and asked her if she had plans of getting married to any of her babies’ daddies. She just giggled and said no.
Would anyone blame my aunt for getting contraceptives for this girl? After raising her children, she had been left with her grandchildren to raise and to add salt to a festering wound, she now has great grand children to raise. There is the aspect of preserving the ‘Christian’ image of the family, but also averting the economic burden on already retired grannies. A sad twist to the plot is my aunt was recently widowed. Her husband, my uncle, is yet to be buried this weekend. What next for her?