June 15, 2006
The Los Angeles Times on Thursday profiled Isaiah Gakuyo, an HIV-positive Kenyan boy whose death "divided the country" and "sparked a national debate over care and support for those living with HIV." Gakuyo was slain by his uncle in what some people call an "honor killing," a situation that is "symptomatic of the hatred and discrimination faced by millions of people living with HIV in Africa," according to the Times. Gakuyo and his sister were sent to live with their grandmother after their father, who was HIV-positive, abandoned the family and their mother died of an AIDS-related illness. A few years later, Gakuyo's sister and grandmother died, and he was sent to live with a "distant relative," who housed Gakuyo in a chicken shack and "brought him a strong disinfectant soap, hoping it would clear up his boils and sores," the Times reports. After reporting being mistreated, Gakuyo was sent to live with another relative -- an "unemployed, uneducated and unmarried" uncle. Gakuyo's "mood began to darken" and his behavior became more unpredictable while living with his uncle, according to the Times. Gakuyo was found severely beaten a short time later, with deep wounds that "bystanders were too afraid to bandage," the Times reports. The boy died of his injuries and neither his family nor his neighbors attended the funeral. Some HIV/AIDS advocates say the killing reveals large gaps in Kenya's HIV/AIDS support system and the way the country cares for HIV-positive children. "I can only imagine the pressures of taking care of a child you know is dying," Wangari Muta Maathai, a member of Kenyan parliament and recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize, said, adding, "We are all angry at the uncle, but how many of us tried to help him when he was taking care of the boy?" (Sanders, Los Angeles Times, 6/15).
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2006 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.