Let Us Not Forget The 80s, 90s & Early 2000s.

Let Us Not Forget The 80s, 90s & Early 2000s.

1280 720 Oliver Kagwe

The air they breathed was contaminated with sadness and death. The environment was littered with desperation and confusion. And the sky? Well it was was pregnant with disease and it poured down on them fear. Word had spread like wildfire. A mystery murrain was here, and it was not only terrifying but also terminal! Some said it was a curse from the ancestors. Others said it was an evil spirit from hell. And others said it was punishment from the gods. Many other people said many other things. But no one could understand this thing. Not even doctors – men and women who are supposed to be like God because they have healing powers. The only things they were certain about were these: that it was a disease, that it made you skinny as fuck and that it did not delay to kill you.



Mortuaries and cemeteries were busy because crowds came in and either left crying, or never left at all. People were getting laid hard, fast and 6-feet deep. And each time a person got laid another one got infected. It was crazy. Confused doctors came up with all sorts of drugs in an attempt to save lives. But the medicines were too strong they did more harm than good. Instead of curing they brought more illnesses, and catalysed death. Families lost their breadwinners, sons lost their mothers, daughters lost their dads, parents buried their children. It was terrible. The plague threatened to wipe out an entire generation across sub-saharan Africa.

People were scared. Many were convinced that among a myriad of other ways, it could be transmitted by the mere act of looking at those infected. Or shaking hands. So the uninfected ones isolated the infected ones. Some were thrown into the forests to die. Others were quarantined inside dark rooms to keep in the company of their misfortune, to die. Those days were dark for the world, and even darker for Africa.


1999


Soon enough, doctors and researchers started comprehending it. First, they called the syndrome gay-related immune deficiency (or GRID). Thought to be for the gay community (such an unfortunate group of people.) Then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used the term ‘AIDS’ (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) for the first time, describing it as a disease at least moderately predictive of a defect in cell mediated immunity, occurring in a person with no known case for diminished resistance to that disease. If you haven’t understood a thing don’t you worry, there is a reason why you are not a doctor and somebody else is. While the world was busy coming up with complicated names for this thing, here in Africa Ugandans were calling it Slim. (I know. Calm down).

In France, men in white coats reported the discovery of a virus called Lymphadenopathy-Associated Virus (or LAV) and believed could be the cause of AIDs. Then some other learned people discovered another version of the virus and decided to call it HTLV-III. But then team LAV met with team HTLV-III and they agreed that the viruses were identical and could be what caused the damned disease. Thankfully, in May 1986, the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses said that the virus that causes AIDS will officially be called HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) instead of HTLV-III/LAV – to the relief of many. At least this one we could remember.

With more details about the virus being revealed, the fight was on. In 1996, the joint United Nations Programme for AIDS (UNAIDS) was formed to champion worldwide action on the epidemic and coordinate how the UN responds to it.


1997.


When the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) {read about them here}were made, among the goals set was a specific one to counter the spread of HIV, Malaria and TB. Money was going to be an important resource to facilitate this fight, and so Global Fund was born, giving its first grant of $600 million in 2002. But more reinforcement was en route. President George W. Bush of the US announced the birth of the United States President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) – the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history. Since its inception, PEPFAR has channeled $70 billion towards the elimination of this menace from hell. Through the generosity of the American people, governments, agencies and implementing partners, PEPFAR changed the course of the pandemic.

***

I have lost the initial intention I had for this blog in trying to remind you how bad HIV was. But that’s ok, because everything happens for a reason. If you were not there when Kibaki began running the ‘Pamoja Tuangamize Ukimwi’ campaign then you do not know the horror mankind went through. Unlike today where sex is a must and pregnancy is more revered than the virus, sex was an extreme sport those days. I am sure no ones conscious was ever clean when in the act. Their heads must have had guilty prayers like “aki God help me.” 

Dear reader of this blog, I want you to be careful. I want you to be responsible for yourself and those you have an impact on. Go and tell your friends what I have said; it is important. With that, please take the following points home with you:-

a. No one has the cure for HIV yet. And if they do, they don’t want to make it known because they are selfish – they want to sustain the problem so that they profitably sustain the solution. They want to keep selling Antiretrovirals.

b. HIV is still here with us. The virus has only been suppressed, not eradicated. it does not take much to go back to the dark days when contracting HIV was a death sentence. Revere it.

c. It is true that ARVs have bought people more time to live, but that does not mean that you will not die. There is a lifestyle shift and a responsibility that comes with being on treatment. There is a mental effect to the change. You are safer without HIV than with it.

d. The skinny ones are not necessarily the sick ones and the thick ones are not necessarily the healthy ones. Be careful because even the one you think you know could be the one you’ll wish you didn’t. Use protection whenever you can, especially if you have multiple partners.

e. Just because one is infected does not mean that you are better than them. HIV is not transmitted sexually alone. Treat them with dignity. Show them love. It is the least you can do to ever make yourself useful to humanity.

f. If you are infected, cheer up. Your dreams do not have to fade. We are all going to die at some point and in some way anyway. Take your drugs and live life. This drugs are free and will add you many more years to enjoy life.

g. If you adhere to your medication, the number of HIV viruses in your blood (viral load) decreases. The beauty about this is that you will even be able to have sex and not pass it on to your partner (but talk to your doctor first before you go raw) or even have children and not pass it on to them.

In my next blog, I shall talk the uncertain times ahead. I shall show you how fucked up we (Kenyans) are and how much more infected we are about to get.

 

 

 

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