Underneath the veil
A poem by Johnson Mwakazi
After hearing Johnson Mwakazi present his poem "Underneath the Veil" to a gathering in Nairobi, Kenya, Dr LEE Jong-wook invited him to present it to the 59th World Health Assembly. Johnson Mwakazi is a volunteer for the Kibera Community Youth Programme in Kenya.
I wonder what you would do,
If at all you tested positive?
Would you disclose your status?
Or would you deny the simple fact and say
That the tests were unreal?
You claim to know so much about HIV and AIDS,
You even go to the extend of creating awareness on HIV tests,
But are you tested yourself?
You simply know how to "talk the talk" when you don't have it,
But would you "walk the walk" if at all you had it?
Don't you think I feel cheated, oh yes, cheated.
When all I hear and see on the media is purely
Stigmatisation of the highest order.
"Deadly AIDS kills humans dead"
I sit and listen to your commercial breaks,
Oh yes, even to your advertisements,
And all I get, all day long, is fear.
You scare me with your posters,
That I am not only having HIV,
But that I am also a dead man walking
"Cursed is he who has AIDS
Adhabu Imeingia Dunia ni Sasa
Oh you wicked men, the wrath of God is upon you"
If at all you think I'm cursed, or even evil, or even wicked,
Do you stop to realise that I was the most faithful to my wife?
Or would you believe that I got it through injection in
Hospital with an unsterilized needle?
Or if at all you are African enough
Would you believe that I got it through circumcision?
Or if at all you care so much,
Would you believe that I was raped?
Nowadays I have my own spoon, my own cup, my own plate,
My own fork.
Imagine in a family of eight,
And surprisingly, not enough of this exists for the whole family.
Nobody dares to shake my hands.
They find it safe to just wave at me.
Would you believe that they even fear to breathe when they are around me?
Anyway, I am not begging you to understand me, or even sympathise with me,
Because I know some of you.
Oh yes, most of you
Make money because of my status,
But I just want you to know this
If at all you think you're negative,
You never know, until you go for testing
. And if at all you test negative
You never know, you might as well be in the window period,
Oh yes, in the window period.
Brothers and sisters,
Fathers and mothers,
This one thing has destroyed families,
This one thing has destroyed marriages;
This one thing has killed men.
It is not HIV;
It is not AIDS;
It is not Drugs;
It is not suicide;
It is not Murder;
It is stigmatisation.
I say STIGMATISATION
Now, to all those who are but like me,
Looks like we are aliens,
Aliens in the land in which we were born,
But it doesn't matter,
I say it doesn't matter
Run the race, yes, run the race
And do not look back or side-ways
Just move on, keep on moving
It doesn't matter, but we'll still finish the race.
There is only one way that takes you to your destiny:
There is only one truth that you can believe in:
There is only one life that you can live.