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My sister always served me on the same plate after she learnt of my HIV status



Mary (not her real name) often made trips to the hospital when she was little.

She was too young to understand what was happening and her mother was hesitant to tell her that she was HIV positive.

When I met her, she greeted me with a firm handshake and apologized for showing up ten minutes late.

We quickly went to a nearby restaurant and ordered a cold drink. She gently dipped her straw into the mug of milkshake and took a sip before settling onto her seat.

She tells me that the interview might ‘go south’ any moment since the subject is quite emotional and she might need time to recollect herself.

When I was little, my mum often took to me to the hospital. From time to time I was down with a cold but I thought it was nothing serious.

By the time I got to Class Six, the trips were more frequent and I had to ask my mum why I was always in hospital yet my pals were outside enjoying their childhood.

“It is at this point that she told me I was HIV positive. I remember how distraught she was when she broke the news to me. Her eyes were teary.

She explained to me that it was not my fault and that she was actually the one to blame since it was a case of mother to child transmission.

At the time, I could not comprehend the magnitude of the situation and my innocent self thought I would be healed within no time. This was not meant to be.

As the years went by, I realized that I had to live with the virus and I had to be on medication daily.

Fast forward to 2018, I have a lovely sister whom I deeply love. I have spent numerous nights at her place but on a certain weekend I noticed something peculiar.

I wonder why it never occurred to me. Ever since I had started going to her place, she had been serving me food on a particular plate.

At first I thought it was part of a set but later I realized that it was the only one.

On this particular day I approached the househelp and asked her why she always served me on that plate.

She confidently said, “Niliambiwa nikuwe nakuwekea chakula hapo.”

These words pierced into my heart like a double-edged sword. For a moment my heart sunk.

This was my blood sister. How could she do this to me? We grew up under the same roof…did I really deserve this?

I never confronted her about it but to be honest, our relationship changed. I could not help it.

I tried to forget it but I couldn’t. I was facing stigmatization from family. It was tough.

I cried myself to sleep every single day. I cried out to God so many times. Why me?

Life had lost meaning. I felt I was a baggage to everyone.

But I vowed that my destiny was in my hands and I had the ability to turnaround my fortunes.

I used all the setbacks I faced as a catapult to achieve all my dreams. I felt lonely but I knew God was on my side.

I dedicated my life to him and slowly things started changing.

I landed a decent job with a top city hotel and made good money. I invested the money in various businesses and boy didn’t they pick.

At times I feel like my status influenced me positively. I am now at a better place… I have been on ARVs too but I am used to them

I am living positively, with a positive mindset and I will do my best on earth until the Almighty calls me home.

At this point, Mary takes a look at me and says, life is like an elevator. Challenges can take you up or pull you down but you are at liberty to choose the button you desire.

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Story of Coronavirus patient who recovered raises many questions among Kenyans



Wednesday, April 1, would have passed as any ordinary day were it not for an unusual live broadcast.

President Uhuru Kenyatta was having a video conference meeting the Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Health, Mutahi Kagwe, who was in the company of two individuals that had recovered from coronavirus.

The two were; Brenda Ivy Cherotich, now popularly known as Kenya’s first coronavirus patient and Brian Orinda, patient number three – who contracted the virus from Brenda.  On March 13, Kenya joined a growing list of countries around the world that have confirmed cases of coronavirus.

After the health CS made the announcement, life in Kenya changed – literally. In three weeks, the country has recorded 81 cases and one death. Kenyans are now strictly observing a 7pm to 5am curfew as part of the many measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

Patient zero goes public 

Following her going public, Brenda – patient zero – captured the attention of the entire country. In the interview, she confirmed that indeed she had the virus, explained where she could have possibly caught it, and revealed that she has now fully recovered from the virus.Clad in a red top and cream pants, Brenda looked bubbly as she gave a captivating narration of her experience with coronavirus.

With her was Brian. He came across as quiet – almost timid – judging by how he slouched on the chair during the video conference.


After her virtual meeting with Uhuru and media interviews in various stations, Brenda has now become an overnight sensation and a hot subject for trolls on the internet. She has been trending on Twitter for most of the day.Why Brenda has raised a stormStandard Digital has gone through several interviews Brenda has given after she came out in public to share her experience.

These are the questions Kenyans are asking:

How many days was Brenda in quarantine?

In the telecom with Uhuru, Brenda said she had been in quarantine for 23 days. During her interview at NTV, she said she was in quarantine for 22 days. “I’ve been in quarantine for 22 days now,” she said.

The difference between the date of recovery and confirmation of the first case is 20 days. So, where did the 23 days come from?

We do however acknowledge that Brenda said upon return to Nairobi, she developed a cough and a fever for three days. “I decided to give myself one day to see how my body would respond”.So, how many days was Brenda in quarantine?

Mbagathi Hospital or Kenyatta National Hospital?

After a now-famous virtual meeting with Kenyatta, Brenda said after exhibiting cough and fever, she took herself to hospital after calls to the Health Ministry toll number went unanswered. In her testimonial, Brenda said she went to Mbagathi hospital, where she was eventually put on quarantine.

She also told NTV’s Dennis Okari that she called Mbagathi hospital and the toll free numbers, which went unanswered.“Okari: Did they pick you from the house? Brenda: The calls to Mbagathi hospital did not go through, that’s when I decide to take a cab and go there myself.”However, in an interview on Citizen TV on Wednesday night, Brenda thanked nurses and staff at the Kenyatta National Hospital for helping her to pull through the quarantine period.

So, where was Brenda quarantined?

How does Brian fit into Brenda’s story?

Brian Orinda, the third patient to recover from the coronavirus said he contracted the virus from Brenda.“I got the disease through contact with Brenda. Immediately her results were out, the authorities came for me. When I tested positive, they embarked on my treatment,” he said during the video conference with Uhuru.In an interesting twist, Brenda denies knowing Brian prior to contracting the coronavirus.

When asked who Brian was, she responded that she came to know him when he was brought into the isolation ward at Mbagathi hospital.Minutes later, she contradicts herself by saying Brian was one of the people who had been at her house in Rongai, after her return from the US.Brenda had also earlier said that after she experienced a mild cough and fever three days after her return, she made a few calls to her friends who had been to her house.So, how did Brenda infect Brian?

How old is Brenda?

While announcing the news of Kenya’s first confirmed positive case, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said, “the case is a Kenyan citizen who travelled back to Nairobi returning from the United States of America via London, United Kingdom on March 5, 2020.

She was confirmed positive by the National Influenza Centre Laboratory at the National Public Health Laboratories of the Ministry of Health. The patient is clinically stable, and is being managed at the Infectious Diseases Unit at the Kenyatta National Hospital.”

Kagwe said the patient was a 27-year-old woman.Brenda says she is 26-year-old.“I got it from the media when it was announced…that’s when someone called and said, Ivy, I think that is you,” she told NTV’s Dennis Okari.

Regarding her age, she said, “the media actually said I was 27-year-old, then I was like no, but I’m 26 years old… But I connected the dots.”Age is just a number. 26 or 27 is certainly a big deal for a woman. We get you Brenda!

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Cancer patients facing even more challenges, starvation



As the social distancing directive takes shape, cancer patients are

confronted with the risk of starvation due to lack of food.

For many patients already struggling with the burden of high treatment costs, access to food is a huge challenge.

Jane Frances Njoki (left), a cancer advocate and survivor says lack of food could weaken the patients’ already compromised immunity leaving them susceptible to coronavirus.

“Most of the patients have been relying on well-wishers to fund their treatment and now getting food is a struggle,” she says.

Grace Wangui, a breast cancer patient from Kawangware, is unsure of where she will get her next meal. It has been two weeks since Wangui underwent a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer Stage 2.

Donor support

The 48-year-old who underwent the surgery with the support of a donor has no job but has been relying on her two sisters who she lives with to put food on the table.

“I don’t have parents nor do I have children. My sisters are all I have got,” she says. But now with the outbreak of the coronavirus, one of her sisters who is the breadwinner is unable to feed the family.

“My sister hawks clothes in Kawangware. Her business has been badly affected by this outbreak,” adds Wangui.

With the little money her sister makes, she has to choose between buying food for the family or purchasing medication for Wangui.

Empty handed

In Kangemi, Rose Wanja has returned home from work empty handed for days on end. The 61-year-old breast cancer patient, hawks tea leaves in Kangemi to earn a living. But business has been low in the past two weeks.

Wanja is under medication but cannot afford to take a balanced diet as advised by the doctor.

Wanja lives by herself since her children are grown up and have their own families to support.

She worries that with the current coronavirus outbreak, life is likely to get even tougher. “Doctors advise that I eat a diet that can boost my blood levels. That has not been possible. Now my body feels weak as if the sickness has aggravated,” she says.

The plight ofWangui and Wanja is similar to that of many other cancer patients across the country. Jane says that they are more than 100 patients in a support group in Kariobangi, Kawangware, Kangemi and Limuru who are in urgent need of food, medication and toiletries.

Looking for well-wishers

“We are looking for well-wishers to provide dry foods such as rice, flour, milk, cooking oil and cereals. To maintain hygiene during this period, we are also requesting for soap and sanitisers donations.

Any support will come in handy in keeping the patients strong even as they take their medication,” says Jane.

She fears that the current situation may end up aggravating the patient’s illness. “Most of the patients even those in critical condition have been advised to go home. She says that for some, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy have been postponed to a later date.

Given their low immunity, cancer patients are at a high risk of contracting coronavirus.

The much we can do right now is to ensure that they are eating well and taking their medication,” she adds.


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Covid-19: Kenyans in South Africa speak



South African police officers at a road block near Cape Town on March 31, 2020 enforcing the ongoing lockdown. Kenyans in South Africa are struggle to adjust brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO | RODGER BOSCH | AFP

South Africa started its 21-day national lockdown on Friday as the government stepped up its efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Besides South Africans, the clampdown has also affected foreigners who arrived in the country to seek a better life.

As the lockdown kicked off on Friday, the health department announced the first coronavirus death and that confirmed cases had tipped over the 1,000 mark.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the country now had 1,170 confirmed cases of Covid-19 — an increase of 243 new cases from an announcement made on Thursday. At the time, 28,537 tests had been done.

Of these cases, 55 patients were in hospital, four of whom are in ICU and on ventilation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said the unprecedented crisis demanded that the lockdown be imposed.

The ordinary South African has now to get used to “a new normal” – being confined at home for the next three weeks.

But for some, especially foreigners, this reality has far-reaching implications.

Thomas Maina arrived in South Africa three years ago to try and eke out a living and support his family back in Nyeri, Kenya.

Maina sells artefacts at the Johannesburg Mall, not too far from his apartment.

Not sure of exactly how he will cope during this lockdown, Mr Maina now wishes he is with his family in the central highlands of Kenya.

The 43-year-old trader is only one of the countless venders and entrepreneurs facing crippling uncertainty during the lockdown.

“It’s been a bit of a difficult period since the coronavirus cases were confirmed in South Africa. I work from the Johannesburg Mall and people stopped visiting malls, which meant business was affected,” he said.

With just a few days before the month ends, Maina knows his landlord will be expecting his rent and his children back in Kenya will be expecting money. But he says he has not been able to make enough money this month.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen because there has not been any business this month. I really want to know if I’ll have to pay my rent this month,” Mr Maina says.

He is aware of the move Italy took to soften the economic impact of the coronavirus such as suspending the need to pay household bills.

However, the South African government has not said anything on rentals and Maina may find himself in trouble if he fails to raise the R4,000 (Sh23,000) needed by Wednesday next week.

“I’m not sure how I will raise the money because the malls have closed and people are indoors. Who will buy my artefacts?”

On a good month, Maina can make up to R10,000 (Sh59,000). Part of that money is sent to his family.

“I’m a father and I’d obviously prefer to be with my kids at a time like this. But the situation doesn’t allow,” he says.

The Kenyan High Commission in Pretoria has warned Kenyans living in South Africa “to adjust to the guidelines issued by President Ramaphosa” and “to familiarise themselves with the directive issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta including the outlined proactive measures the Kenyan government is taking to contain the spread of Covid-19”.

Even if Maina wants to return home and has the means, the Kenya government has already suspended all international flights into the country except for Cargo flights.

“I’m in a fix, I just have to stay and see how this plays out over the next few weeks,” Maina adds.

For Julia Wanjiru, a Kenyan businesswoman who has lived in Johannesburg for the past decade, it’s yet another blow.

In the last quarter of 2018, Wanjiru lost R40,000 (Sh235,000) worth of goods to looters in clashes that broke out in the city. Five months ago, she had to halt operations because of the wave of xenophobic attacks.

The Covid-19 outbreak has also had a negative impact on her business.

But, Wanjiru, 36, a devout Christian, believes she will navigate through the difficult period “by God’s grace”.

“This has affected my business a great deal, but we shall overcome this,” she says, adding that “God is the answer”.

While she is convinced a divine power will help her through this period, she will not neglect playing her part.

“It’s important to follow the measures being implemented by the South African government because they are for our protection,” she says.

Unlike Maina, she has no intention of returning to Kenya soon.

However, she heeded the call by High Commissioner Jean Kamau for Kenyans living in South Africa to “continuously look out for and support one another”. She and Maina occasionally check up on one another.

Unfortunately, she may not be able to help him with his rent come Wednesday next week as she also has to take care of her own.

Another Kenyan, Mike Njeri, 28, works as a car guard in northern Johannesburg.

An emotional Njeri says he wishes he could go back to Kenya.

“I regret being here. I have my country and if I get money for transport, I wouldn’t hesitate to go home,” he says.

He does not feel safe in South Africa, which has the highest coronavirus cases in Africa.


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