Tag Archives: Stereotypes

Hope though false is worth clinging to.


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.

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Charlie Sheen’s disclosure: HIV stigma is still with us

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.

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The story that motivated me to write

My Canadian friend Elaine and I in 2007
My Canadian friend Elaine and I in 2007

June 2007, I was in Canada at my friend Elaine’s house when suddenly I became famous. I had made it on the Calgary Herald. It was a good thing right? Not until I had a second opinion from a friend.“The journalist was brutal.” Only then did it hit me that how one is portrayed on the media affects their public image. 

During the interview, I didn’t give it much thought. Of course some facts had been embellished, such as the Simon Makonde story of being infected on the same night. Anyway, that being beside the point, this is one story that acted as a motivator to me.

Juliet’s HIV tale highlights Canada’s myopia on Africa

She lives the tragedy of being an African aid failure — and perhaps reflects Canada’s AIDS apathy as well. Juliet Awuor lost her virginity and went HIV-positive the same night in a Kenyan slum.

Her infected boyfriend wooed Juliet using the lame line that he’d forever be her Romeo. The 17-year-old, who had only been exposed to sex abstinence promotions, didn’t know how to use a condom — and the boyfriend wasn’t inclined to deliver a quickie bedroom education. Six months later, her Romeo gone, naive Juliet was diagnosed HIV-positive.

Now she’s 23 and on a mission to spread the educational emphasis beyond an international no-sex message to a more practical safe-sex emphasis.

“If I’d known how to protect myself, I would’ve made a much better choice,” she told me. “Abstinence is good and should be encouraged, but if they want to have real success, they should try to show us how to protect ourselves.”

Read the whole story here.

He was writing the story from his view. He also managed to get the intended message out there. A message which was far removed from Juliet. He was talking of the apathy of the Canadian legislators.

That story was among the reasons I decided to pursue a career in writing. Perhaps subconsciously to be empowered to write my own story. The article ends with a classic punchline.

Of course, it’s all too late to help Juliet. In a tragic case of modern life imitating Shakespearean art, her life will be shortened by a Romeo she should’ve avoided like the plague he was carrying.

Reading the story years later, I have this smile on. The smile that says, “Don Martin, if only you knew.” I am still alive and don’t think I have an appointment with death anytime soon. But hey! Let’s see the bright side- He motivated me to pursue a career in writing. Even the birth of this blog was inspired by that? Maybe not entirely.