AIDS. AIDS. AIDS.
We don't think about this scourge very much anymore because it's been with us for years, right? But for nearly thirty years the world's leading scientists have struggled to come up with a cure or a form of antidote that would slow down its devastating symptoms. The good news is, there has been a measure of success on the latter front. In most developed nations, AIDS is no longer an automatic kiss of death. In swaths of Africa, however, the march has been slower.
Yesterday I watched as Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, called upon the nation to embrace the cut. I have to assume his comments were directed at a certain group of people from the Lake Victoria region who still flee when they are confronted with the possibility of a knife kissing the tip of their.......fill in the blank. What was striking about his comments was the fact that he called for an act that was a radical departure from years of cultural practice. Was the Prime Minister saying that the scourge has been so devastating that a fundamental rethink of culture is called for? Was he bravely stating that radically new approaches needed to be part of the overall effort to combat the continuing scorched-earth effects of AIDS?
I come to this matter with the humility of a man who realizes that thousands of Kenyans have lost their lives, and many others, like me, have lost relatives and friends to this debilitating disease. Because of the horrendous effects of AIDS, and the impact it has on the nation's vibrancy, I agree with the Prime Minister that whatever can be done must be done to slow down this disease. We must also thank the hundreds of NGOs, churches, government entities and private citizens who have worked tirelessly to slow down the determined encroachment of this scourge.
But you'll have noticed that the Prime Minister went out in broad strokes. He said let's do the cut. I agree with him. But who should do the cut? The kids in standard one? Form One? College freshmen? Should a husband do it? How about a priest?
And by the way, do all Kenyan communities do the cut except those people from the lake who run away at the sight of a knife? In case you didn't know it, the Luos had their own form of a cut, only it took the six lower teeth of our forefathers. It was a measure put in place to fight what was called lockjaw disease. The premise was simple. If one was inflicted with the disease and their jaws locked, they could still be fed through that hole created by pulling down the six teeth. Wasn't that smart? That was Luo ingenuity.
So why did certain communities cut the foreskin?
Fellow countrymen, what the Prime Minister called on Kenyans to do must be seen in the context of his willingness to be pragmatic about the issues facing Kenya. New approaches must be embraced in order to fight diseases and other ills. Where tradition and culture stands in the way of saving lives and moving the nation forward, those traditions must be discarded for the good of everyone.
Lastly, I hope we are all smart enough today to ask the person we plan to marry to take a test. Don't walk that man or woman down the aisle until he/she slaps a medical record on the table that clears him/her of the disease. And for those who are in relationships, there is only one sure way to keep safe...integrity. Respect yourself enough to wait until you are married to take that beautiful woman/handsome man to bed. Is that easy to do? No, but you have years of togetherness after getting married, what would a little wait hurt?
So my friends who run away at the sight of a knife, take courage, look the knife in the eye and tell it you are ready to tango. Once that piece is sliced off, run with it to the lake and watch as the waves sail away with it. Or you may ask our friends from Sotik and Bungoma and Voi and Nyeri and Kangundo what they did with theirs.