Thursday, June 15, 2006

14 Yr. Old Hacked to Death For Having AIDS

[Isaiah Gakuyo pictured left wearing yellow, squating on ground.]

In a chilling story in the LA Times today, there's a story about a 14 year old boy named Isaiah who was hacked to death by his uncle. Born with the virus, Isaiah was...
"...shuttled among relatives who said the boy had only himself to blame for the beatings and abuse they heaped upon him. "He was always looking for trouble," an aunt said of the HIV-positive 14-year-old.

"By the time AIDS activists came to move Isaiah to a rescue home, relatives had banished him to a woodshed, where he was forced to use a separate cup and plate and wasn't allowed to play with a younger cousin.
Their intervention would not be enough. On a wet morning this spring, one of Isaiah's uncles hacked him to death with a forked hoe. As the boy lay bleeding, relatives and neighbors watched in horror, but none offered help until plastic gloves arrived from the local dispensary.

"Many describe Isaiah's brutal slaying as an "honor killing," symptomatic of the hatred and discrimination faced by millions of people living with HIV in Africa. Efforts to arrest the 26-year-old uncle have failed, police say, because family members are taking food to him in the forest.

This killing took place in Kenya. The story continues where people are expressing sympathy for the uncle and how difficult his job was taking care of the boy in a country where AIDS support is sparse. The story continues...
Some sympathize with the family, characterizing the attack as a spontaneous fit of rage by an overburdened caretaker. The killing, they say, exposes deep gaps in the nation's AIDS support network, particularly for the 750,000 children, like Isaiah, orphaned by the disease.

"I can only imagine the pressures of taking care of a child you know is dying," said Wangari Muta Maathai, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmentalist and parliament member who represents the Nyeri district, where the family lives. "We are all angry at the uncle, but how many of us tried to help him when he was taking care of the boy?"

After his father discovered he (the father) was infected, he abandoned the family and his mother returned to her hometown. But soon more family members, also infected, began dying. A sister, two aunts and a grandmother. Isaiah was moved to another home where he was forced to live in a chicken coop. Wherever he went, he got sicker, sores appeared on his body, his hair fell out and he was beaten regularly for not doing his chores and "complaining" too much about being in pain.

He finally found help through his school, began taking meds and attending counseling sessions where they say he was helping other younger kids with HIV. Finally, he was taken in by an uncle, Kiboi, but the two of them did not get along and it finally ended up with Isaiah beaten to death.

Few members of Isaiah's family attended the funeral. Neighbors and tribal elders also stayed away. Instead, the boy's coffin was carried by AIDS activists and his friends at the rescue center...

...Tilling the soil around her home, she denied that AIDS had devastated the family, blaming Isaiah for the family's troubles. "It was all the boy," she said.

Sad, sad story.

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