The Scourge of HIV/AIDS
A True Story
on Jul 26, 2023
I know, I know, the scourge of HIV/AIDS is an issue we would all rather sweep under the carpet. But because the disease is real and has no cure, it's worth discussing. Recently, I read in the newspapers that HIV infections are on the rise in Turkana, a county in northern Kenya. The disease, which is spread mostly during sex, is indeed real.
Discovered in America in 1981, HIV/AIDS became a global pandemic in the '90s when I was a boy. During the 1992 U.S. presidential race, both the Republican and Democratic parties had AIDS sufferers speak at their conventions to show Americans that their presidential candidates were serious about tackling the AIDS pandemic.
Here in Kenya, President Moi declared HIV/AIDS a national disaster in November 1999. Billboards were erected along major roads to raise awareness of the disease. And some concerned officials visited schools to show students films about people suffering from AIDS.
Perhaps due to the government's efforts to sensitize people to the dangers of HIV/AIDS, my Dad became concerned about the disease. One night in the early 2000s when my eldest brother Joe Kagigite was at the university, Dad warned him that there was HIV after he noted Joe had been absent from home for several days. It was apparent that Dad was worried that Joe could have been engaging in risky behaviour.
Even some of my agemates were also concerned about the disease. A schoolmate of mine in high school named Justus told us during a Christian Union fellowship in 2004 that he had slept with girls during school holidays and the thought that he could have contracted HIV had worried him sick. So it came as a great relief to him when he tested negative for HIV.
Then another handsome chap named Eric [not his real name], who used to live in my neighbourhood, confided in me on one night in 2006 that he had been seduced by a certain lass into sleeping with her.
"I hear that lass has...", I began saying to Eric in Kikuyu and before I finished my sentence, he blurted out, "Has AIDS?"
Well, I wasn't thinking of the lass having AIDS but from the way Eric reacted with his question, I could tell he was dead scared that he could have gotten infected with HIV during his tryst with the lass. That's how seriously some of my agemates took HIV/AIDS.
Some other agemates, however, didn't seem interested in listening to those spreading awareness of the disease. There was a night during my high school years at Starehe Boys' Centre when someone tried to show us a film about HIV/AIDS. Most students were unwilling to watch the film and clamoured to have the usual Hollywood movies shown on the screen. I thought that was very unwise of the students.
And when I was a first-year engineering student at the university in JKUAT in 2007, some classmates skipped HIV/AIDS classes, apparently because they thought the classes were irrelevant to their mastery of engineering concepts. I personally attended each of the classes and enjoyed taking part in discussions about the disease.
Despite all the information I have heard about HIV/AIDS since I was a boy in the '90s, I have never known anyone with HIV. Neither have I ever seen someone with full-blown AIDS. But I have been alarmed enough about the disease to abstain from premarital sex. And just to be sure the deadly virus isn't in my blood, I went for a HIV test on one afternoon in 2017. I tested negative.
Even though there is still no cure for HIV/AIDS, I don't know why the Kenyan government has scaled down its campaign to sensitize people to the disease. Maybe it's because anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs have been made to help HIV-positive people lead normal lives.
Since I don't like taking medicine, I would hate swallowing ARV drugs every now and then. Which is why I have resolved not to engage in premarital sex. I just don't want to contract the virus.
My beloved reader, if you are HIV negative, I urge you to also safeguard your status jealously. Even with the ARV drugs, living with HIV is not easy, what with the stigma and constant fear of falling ill. So abstain from sex if you are single and be faithful to your partner if you are married. Ciao!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed the above story on the scourge of HIV/AIDS, you might also enjoy another one on "The Time I Went For HIV Test" that I wrote several years ago. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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The Importance of Work
A True Story
on Jul 21, 2023
While reading the newspapers, I sometimes come across news of rich Kenyans who are appointed to senior government positions. And they seem to relish the appointments even though they have enough wealth to live comfortably in their homes. That tells us there is more to life than having money. We need work to occupy our time.
I think that's why some American politicians of a bygone era emphasized the importance of work. Abraham Lincoln believed that a dollar earned is better than a dollar found. He advised his son that it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat.
Another American politician is quoted to have said that he had no respect for people who didn't work, no matter how rich they were. And another American politician valued excellence to an extent of not allowing his sons to come home with poor school report forms.
I wonder if American leaders of these days hold such high ideals. In his best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey reported that he had studied success literature written since America was founded and noted a shift in focus by writers from a character-based living to a personality-based one.
According to Covey, the success literature written in the first 150 years since America was founded emphasized the need for such virtues as industry, integrity, humility, courage and patience as the foundation of lasting success. But in the 20th century, self-help writers started telling readers all they needed to achieve success was dream big, smile more and have a positive mental attitude.
With such a change in focus from character-based living to a personality-based one by self-help writers in America, it seems American citizens of these days don't value work as much as Americans of past ages did. Little wonder that there has been a prevalence of obesity and other lifestyle diseases in America for the last 50 years.
I personally admire people who work. A few years ago when I was striving to transform myself from a lazy bum to a hard-working writer and musician, I would underline every sentence about work in the books I read. I even highlighted in my Oxford dictionary the word "work" and its meaning.
So much have I come to value work that when I am walking on the streets, I admire labourers busy at work. Such labourers as workers welding doors, men digging trenches for laying pipes, ordinary citizens hammering rocks to pieces and masons carrying bricks for building houses.
Just last Sunday as I was taking a walk in my hometown of Kiserian in the evening, I passed by a bevy of workers in dusty clothes constructing a building. Mark you, it was a Sunday evening and the workers were as busy as a swarm of bees. I was so impressed with their diligence that I paused to admire them at work.
Then on Tuesday last week, I woke up at 5.30am only to find there was no electricity at home. That meant I couldn't use my laptop to proofread the blog story I had purposed to write that day. (My laptop battery conked out two years ago.) I had to use my smartphone to type, edit and upload the story to this blog.
By the time I was done with sharing my story on social media, my smartphone battery power was down to 39%. So I became a bit worried about whether my smartphone would have enough charge for checking my social media accounts in the evening if the power outage persisted. You can therefore imagine my delight when I saw the bulb of our kitchen light up at around 12.30pm on that Tuesday. I was really delighted to see power return to our home.
Seeing electricity come back home at an hour I needed it most made me appreciate the work people at Kenya Power Company do to ensure we have our share of electrical energy. It also made me feel guilty about the times I have overslept while my fellow citizens were busy at work. I have therefore resolved to keep working hard at becoming a great writer and musician.
My beloved reader, I urge you to also value work because, as the saying goes, an idle mind is a devil's workshop. Work not only occupies our time, it saves us from vice and need. It also makes our lives meaningful. Even in heaven where there is no suffering, people engage in work. So value work and be diligent at whatever you do. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed the above story on the importance of work, you might also enjoy another one on "The Dignity of Labour" which I wrote about two years ago. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.