Patient Zero

When talk about AIDS first broke out, no one really knew anyone with it. I was in high school, and for us, it was a distant story about Americans.

In fact, we were told black people didn’t get it. We joked about it as if it would never ever become a reality in Kenya. I remember making an announcement in school during suppertime that the person who took my plate should return it immediately or they’ll get AIDS at night. We laughed heartily.

If I knew then what I would come to know some years later– that I would suffer deep loss of loved ones and friends to the disease, I never would have made that joke, or thought it could never be that serious.

Later, it came to be known as the African disease, even though Patient Zero was a white man diagnosed in America, but of course they had to build up a “researched” narrative that he got it from black Africa, and it took years for the scientific community to finally admit the narrative was false.

When AIDS finally landed in Africa, we had no adequate infrastructure and no people-power mobilization to force politics and policy to address it.

In the US, it was reigned in by a powerful movement of activists, patients, and fed-up citizens who marched and lobbied and camped outside a White House that was complacent about addressing the scourge meaningfully– watch the documentary “How To Survive a Plague”.

Listen, Black Africa. No one really cares about your lives except you. To many outside Africa, African lives are just as dispensable as a dik-dik roadkill. Ask the Chinese. It’s on us to fight for the sanctity of the breath in our black beings, to the last human. We matter. We have irreplaceable value.

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