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Archive for November 30th, 2010

Diaspora group to address challenges

Posted by Administrator on November 30, 2010

Kenyans living in the United States have formed a movement to address challenges facing them.

The Kenya Global Unity (KGU) comes hot on the heels of multiple murders that have seen dozens of Kenyans killed in domestic violence related incidents across several states.

Interim officials of the organisation say the movement will be used as a think tank to channel several issues affecting Kenyans in the Diaspora and at home. It was registered in the State of New Jersey as a Non Governmental Organization (NGO). 

The interim President of the organization is Alex Momanyi (North Carolina) and Julius Ochieng Oluoch (North Carolina) is his deputy. The interim Secretary General is Joseph Lister Nyaringo (New Jersey) and his deputy is Beatrice Ruto (Florida).

KGU will seek to unite the various organisations that operate in various states in the US and worldwide to speak in one voice.

“We are going to advocate for unity of purpose among Kenyans who live outside their home. But we shall also seek to seek for real and practical changes in governance, the realisation of social justice, equity , good governance and promotion of democratic ideals,” said Mr Nyaringo, during the launch for KGU in Las Vegas Nevada last weekend.

It will retain three chapters in Europe, one in Canada, three in the US, and two each in Asia, and Africa respectively. The organisation shall also operate a homeland office in Nairobi.

KGU officials have appealed to the government to facilitate the implementation of dual citizenship for Kenyans and help them acquire new passports through its missions abroad. They also want the government to put logistics in place to enable all Kenyans in the Diaspora to register and vote in the next general elections slated in 2012, since it’s their right to do so.

The officials also demanded that the government addresses the issue of Kenyan women who are lured to Saudi Arabia with promise of a good job only to end up as domestic servants.

Other officials of the KGU include: Joan Misoi (Finance Secretary), Isaac Newton Kinity, director of operations while Peter Makori is the secretary for international affairs. Dr. Barrack Abonyo is the spokesperson.

In the Middle East, KGU is represented by Mohamed Abdi while Philip Ngugi and Julius Menge  represent the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/1062856/-/11hadt1z/-/index.html


Posted in Diaspora News | 1 Comment »

HIV is the best thing that happened to our marriage

Posted by Administrator on November 30, 2010

The news could not have come at a worse time. She was just about to give birth to her third child when she learnt that she was HIV-positive.

To make matters worse, she was in an unhappy marriage, a marriage that was headed for the rocks.

“It was just too much for me to process. I was so stunned, I could not even cry,” says 32-year-old Halima Maina.

That was four years ago. Today, Halima and her 36-year-old husband Maina Muriuki say that being diagnosed with HIV turned out to be the saving grace of their once shaky marriage.

“Our marriage is happier and more fulfilling than it was before we found out that we were HIV-positive. We’re better people,” Halima says.

As Maina revisits his former life, one begins to understand Halima’s strange declaration about their marriage being transformed into a happier union by the HIV virus.

“I do not think I would be alive today, if I was HIV-negative,” Maina begins.

He confesses that before knowing his HIV status, alcohol and friends took priority over everything in his life, including his family.

His relationship with his wife was in such tatters that she had contemplated walking out on their 11-year marriage several times.

“He was my husband but I really did not know him because he was rarely home. When he was there, he was too drunk to make sense,” recalls Halima.

Their two sons knew even less of the perpetual drunkard they called daddy.

Maina concedes that the bond between him and his children was even weaker than that with his wife.

To begin with, his job then — a salesman with a local pharmacist — entailed a lot of travelling. He would come back in the wee hours, more often than not drunk.

The boys counted themselves lucky if they saw their father at least once a week, least of all while sober.

“I would leave the house at five in the morning and return late at night, drunk,” he confesses.

Then in the middle of all this gloom, HIV came knocking.

First, Muriuki fell ill and was admitted to Tumutumu Mission Hospital for eight days. His wife was pregnant then, and set to give birth any time. As he lay in his hospital bed, weak and helpless, she delivered their last child, a boy they named Douglas.

It was just before this delivery that the couple learnt about their HIV status. The news was devastating for both of them, so devastating that after being discharged from hospital, Maina fell ill again and was bedridden for five months.

That left his wife to cope alone, not just to nurse their youngest child, but to face the reality of their HIV status alone. Maina was in denial.

Halima says that she was the first to recover. By the time her husband came round to accepting his status, she had nursed their baby for almost six months and was ready to face life and this potent virus called HIV, to which she had never given a thought before.

And suddenly, their roles changed. The strong-willed husband who rarely spent time with his family unexpectedly found himself seeking the comfort of his soft-spoken wife who had quietly borne his truancy for eight years.

Like many men who are confronted with such unexpected news about their HIV status, Maina feared that his wife would leave him. After all, there was no doubt that he was the one who had infected her.

“I took full responsibility. I knew I was the one who infected her because a woman I had been intimate with had died a couple of years back from what I am now convinced was Aids,” says Maina.

Halima did the unexpected. She stayed and chose to confront the virus — and fight for her marriage. It wasn’t easy, though.

“I cried a lot. I asked where I was headed. Did I want my children to live without a father? Eventually, I decided to stay. I chose to live,” says Halima.

She does not regret her decision. Their marriage, she says, has moved to a higher level, one of love, respect, and friendship. Maina is a changed man. He has kicked a habit he had been struggling with for years: alcoholism. He says he now finds the smell of alcohol revolting.

“My drinking friends saw more of me than my wife. But after I was diagnosed HIV-positive, I began a new life,” he says.

His three sons, now aged 11, eight, and four, see more of their father and enjoy a healthy, and easy-going father-son relationship.

“He spends a lot with them,” says Halima.

For this mother of three, HIV has given her what she had quietly longed for during the many dark nights she spent alone with the children — a husband.

“I spent many lonely nights alone, agonising over what he was up to,” she recalls. “In so many ways, this virus that is so feared has given me back my husband. If he did not know his status, I doubt I would have a husband today.”

Halima has changed, too. According to her husband, she was a rather submissive housewife who quietly slipped behind the shadows of married life, as if she was trying to be invisible.

Well, not anymore.

Today, this mother-of-three plays a bigger role in all the major decisions that the family makes than she did before.

Often, she strictly enforces all the decisions made in their home, like those regarding the family diet.

She ensures that everyone, especially her husband, eats a balanced meal with the little resources available.

She is also a stronger character.

“Before, I was a quiet housewife waiting for my husband to come home. I rarely questioned his behaviour. Not anymore. I have a voice now, and I know that I am entitled to respect and appreciation from my husband, which I am getting.”

And although her husband is currently jobless and relies on odd jobs to provide for them, Halima says that they are happier.

“The bond between us has strengthened. We spend more time together, we share our thoughts more freely. I can now confidently say that we’re a happily married couple,” agrees Maina.

Initially, they feared that those who knew them would shun them because of their status and kept this information to themselves.

But they decided to shake off this fear and begun telling people about their status.

“If sharing our story could help other couples make decisions that would safeguard their health and marriage, we would share it,” says Maina.

They occasionally volunteer as peer counsellors for local support groups of people living with HIV and Aids, in Karatina, Central Kenya, where they come from.

They also talk to married couples about the importance of HIV testing, and over time, the community around them has embraced them.

In a society where an HIV diagnosis begins a despairing mental journey dogged by stigma for many, Maina and his wife have become an inspiration.

They are a poster couple for HIV/Aids anti-stigma campaigns, whose message is perhaps more powerful than any HIV testing and counselling billboard on the streets.

According to the coordinator of the Karatina Home Based Care and Counselling Centre, Samuel Kimiru, the Mainas form the backbone of a team that is encouraging married couples to know their HIV status.

“Many couples are now attending counselling sessions and those who are not married are now able to bargain for safe sex,” says Kimiru.

The result is yet another victory against the spread of HIV and Aids in marriage.

And thanks partly to a positive attitude, the Mainas are healthy and strong enough to lead a normal life.

Their campaign has borne fruit. So far, 20 HIV-free babies have been born to HIV-positive couples within the various support groups they have inspired, a factor that the local coordinator of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTC), Jennifer Wothaya, describes as “the most impressive record in central Kenya.”

Available statistics indicate that married, untested couples present the biggest challenge in the war against HIV and Aids. Experts say that if more married couples would realise that being HIV positive does not necessarily mean an end to their marriages and lives, a big part of the battle would be won.

Halima and Maina want to encourage testing, saying this would go a long way to wiping out the HIV virus.

“I know there are many people who think that they are better of not knowing their HIV status. I want to tell them that they have a better chance of living a longer and more meaningful life if they knew their status,” says Maina.


Posted in Features | 1 Comment »

Kenyan Doctor Saves Lives Through AIDS Research

Posted by Administrator on November 30, 2010

Washington – With a mix of fierce dedication and a practical, results-based approach, Dr. Frederick Sawe has shown that much can be done in sub-Saharan Africa to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS. Sawe is deputy director of the Kenya Medical Research Institute/Walter Reed Project HIV Program, a prevention, research and treatment project run jointly by his home country of Kenya and the U.S. military’s international HIV program.

Based in the town of Kericho, in the southern Rift Valley region, the program is one of the country’s most comprehensive initiatives against HIV infection, which causes AIDS. Funding comes from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a U.S. government program established in 2003.

The program has registered more than half of the estimated 100,000 people infected with HIV in the region of 2.5 million. A little less than half of those infected receive anti-retroviral medication – a treatment that has turned the once deadly illness into a treatable condition. The others – infected, but healthy – undergo regular checkups and are put on the medicines if their health starts deteriorating. To bring care close to where patients live, medicines are provided at 347 local public health facilities throughout the region.

The program provides a level of care considerably better than what is available in many other parts of Africa. For example, the program reaches a large majority of the region’s pregnant women to counter the risk of their infecting their infants. Last year, 84,000 of the region’s 100,000 pregnant women were tested for HIV infection. Those who tested positive receive counseling and inexpensive medicines to prevent transmission of the virus to their newborns.

Sawe said the program follows procedures that researchers have demonstrated are pretty effective in preventing mother-to-child transmission of the virus. “There is really no reason for childhood HIV cases,” Sawe said.

Sawe’s program has improved the effectiveness of the widely used treatment. Research he co-authored that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that a combination of drugs – ideally administrated regularly from the 14th week of pregnancy – is much more effective and safe for the mother than the single dose of the inexpensive drug nevirapine during labor. This method has been used since its development in 1999 by researchers in Uganda. The treatment also avoids the risk of the mother building up a resistance to nevirapine and compromising future treatments.

Another focus of Sawe’s program has been reducing the transmission of the virus by prostitutes. Those “infecting the most people are the commercial sex workers,” Sawe said.

Typically, prostitutes and some others who might have been exposed to the virus have felt embarrassed to go to a clinic to be tested. So Sawe started a campaign of “moonlight HIV testing and counseling.” After a radio and leaflet ad campaign, health workers spent several nights on the streets of “red light” districts, offering testing and education on safe sex. In many areas, Sawe said, 50 percent of prostitutes tested positive.

“We teach them to use condoms, and how to negotiate with clients [for safe sex],” said Sawe. “For example, some now charge double for having sex without a condom.”

One of the goals of Sawe’s program is to train local health workers “so that people see their sons and daughters rather than some strangers” providing treatment. This is essential to winning the support of the population, Sawe said.

The program is also developing and testing new treatments and vaccines. The search for a vaccine against HIV received a major boost last year when, for the first time, a vaccine formula being tested in Thailand was shown to be partially effective.

The recently released annual report of the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS also had some good news. As a result of prevention and treatment programs around the world, at least 56 countries have stabilized or reduced the number of new HIV infections.

Source: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1011/S00656/kenyan-doctor-saves-lives-through-aids-research.htm

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US tells Kenya sorry over WikiLeaks dossier

Posted by Administrator on November 30, 2010

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 30 – The government now says officials of the United States administration have apologised to Kenya over the anticipated damaging WikiLeaks cables touching on Kenya.

Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua on Tuesday said Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson telephoned Prime Minister Raila Odinga over the matter on Monday but didn’t divulge details of the injurious information in the dossier.

Addressing a press conference at his Nairobi office, Dr Mutua was however categorical over Kenya’s disappointment with the information available in the international media on the regard Washington held Nairobi and its leadership.

“If what is reported is true, then it is totally malicious and a total misrepresentation of our country and our leaders,” he said.

Dr Mutua said: “We are surprised and shocked by these revelations.”

“What we know is that true friends should tell you the truth all the time. They should not tell you everything is okay on one hand and on the other say the opposite,” he said.

Media reports indicate that the US government has low regard for the Kenyan leadership and sees the nation as a swamp of corruption.

The Government Spokesman indicated that the apology suggested that more damaging reports could be on the way.

“I don’t think Carson could call our Prime Minister to tell him just about corruption. They have always told us that!”

“I think there is more to the leaks than just that. I think there is more which we will know in a few days.”

The latest round of WikiLeaks releases disclose more detail about America’s relationships with allies and foes across the globe information, which is touted to shake the associations.

“We have very strong historical relationship with America. We have worked well and we don’t think this will lead to any breakdown of the relationship we have,” said Dr Mutua when asked whether the information were likely to affect the bond between Nairobi and Washington.

“But it is good to express what we feel at this particular time.”

Read more: http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/Kenyanews/US-tells-Kenya-sorry-over-WikiLeaks-dossier-10696.html#ixzz16m0c6Z3F

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