Kenyans love a fat, tattooed Mzungu

My stalkers...

My stalkers...

They did this for about 15 minutes...

They did this for about 15 minutes...

That's all they did...

That's all they did...

On Thursday, I visited the village of Katito to see a health centre where an NGO is running an HIV prevention program involving male circumcision. I spent the day in HIV and circumcision counseling sessions, watched a couple circumcisions (graphic) and then hung out with the guys while they recovered in the shade outside.

(More on that later; I’m writing for publication and don’t want to preempt anything.)

I took a break during the day to wander around Katito, a village of 5,000 that only recently got electricity and doesn’t have running water. And yet it’s considered an “urban center.”

While there, I was followed by a couple of young girls who didn’t speak English and simply giggled a lot. I finally took some photos to disarm them, but then immediately was questioned by an old man: “What are you doing?!?!”

Everywhere I go, I get attention. Every Mzungu (kiswahili for foreigner) does. Wazungu (plural) are fascinating, I agree.

The guys at the clinic wanted to know all about me: How old are you? Where are you from? Why aren’t you married? Do you have a girlfriend? Why don’t you have a girlfriend? Have you ever had sex? Do you have kids? How did you get so big? Are all Americans as fat as you? What sports do you play? What beer do you drink? Do you have a house? Do you have a job? Do you have a servant? Are you rich? Where did you get your calf tattooed? You have other tattoos? Do you go to church? What church do you go to? Do you believe in God? Do you have HIV? Do many people in the states have HIV? Are you circumcised?

Of course, I asked lots of questions, too. And I scribbled in my notebook. And I recorded it all with my video camera. It was a good day. (Again, more on the actual reporting later.)

The little girls did not ask any questions. Either didn’t speak English, or wouldn’t acknowledge it. They just liked to giggle.

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10 Responses to “Kenyans love a fat, tattooed Mzungu”

  1. Royal Says:
    September 13th, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    They forgot to ask you, “do you have a blog?” To which you could have responded: I got a blog, and…I type real fast, and…I got an ergonomic mousepad and I hate spam…”

    That’s really funny, mzungu.

  2. Mark Lyndon Says:
    September 13th, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    In Europe, almost no-one circumcises unless they’re Muslim or Jewish, and they have significantly lower rates of almost all STI’s including HIV.

    Even in Africa, there are six countries where men are more likely to be HIV+ if they’ve been circumcised: Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, and Swaziland. Eg in Malawi, the HIV rate is 13.2% among circumcised men, but only 9.5% among intact men. In Rwanda, the HIV rate is 3.5% among circumcised men, but only 2.1% among intact men. If circumcision really worked against AIDS, this just wouldn’t happen. We now have people calling circumcision a “vaccine” or “invisible condom”, and viewing circumcision as an alternative to condoms.

    The one study into male-to-female transmission showed a 50% higher rate in the group where the men had been circumcised btw.

    ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, Condoms) is the way forward. Promoting genital surgery will cost lives, not save them.

  3. Adam Jadhav Says:
    September 14th, 2009 at 4:01 am

    I’d love to check those numbers. Could you post a link to your source re: Cameroon, et al.

  4. Mark Lyndon Says:
    September 14th, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Cameroon http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR163/16chapitre16.pdf table 16.9, p17 (4.1% v 1.1%)
    Ghana http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR152/13Chapter13.pdf table 13.9 (1.6% v 1.4%)
    Lesotho http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR171/12Chapter12.pdf table 12.9 (22.8% v 15.2%)
    Malawi http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR175/FR-175-MW04.pdf table 12.6, p257 (13.2% v 9.5%)
    Rwanda http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR183/15Chapter15.pdf , table 15.11 (3.5% v 2.1%)
    Swaziland http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR202/FR202.pdf table 14.10 (21.8% v 19.5%)

    See also http://www.iasociety.org/Default.aspx?pageId=11&abstractId=2197431

    “Conclusions: We find a protective effect of circumcision in only one of the eight countries for which there are nationally-representative HIV seroprevalence data. The results are important in considering the development of circumcision-focused interventions within AIDS prevention programs.”

    http://apha.confex.com/apha/134am/techprogram/paper_136814.htm

    “Results: … No consistent relationship between male circumcision and HIV risk was observed in most countries.”

  5. Mark Lyndon Says:
    September 14th, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    test

  6. Mark Lyndon Says:
    September 14th, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    It looks like comments with too many links get rejected. I’m now trying to post the same links in multiple comments:
    Cameroon http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR163/16chapitre16.pdf table 16.9, p17 (4.1% v 1.1%)
    Ghana http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR152/13Chapter13.pdf table 13.9 (1.6% v 1.4%)
    Lesotho http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR171/12Chapter12.pdf table 12.9 (22.8% v 15.2%)

  7. Mark Lyndon Says:
    September 14th, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Malawi http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR175/FR-175-MW04.pdf table 12.6, p257 (13.2% v 9.5%)
    Rwanda http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR183/15Chapter15.pdf , table 15.11 (3.5% v 2.1%)
    Swaziland http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR202/FR202.pdf table 14.10 (21.8% v 19.5%)

  8. Mark Lyndon Says:
    September 14th, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    See also http://www.iasociety.org/Default.aspx?pageId=11&abstractId=2197431

    “Conclusions: We find a protective effect of circumcision in only one of the eight countries for which there are nationally-representative HIV seroprevalence data. The results are important in considering the development of circumcision-focused interventions within AIDS prevention programs.”

    http://apha.confex.com/apha/134am/techprogram/paper_136814.htm

    “Results: … No consistent relationship between male circumcision and HIV risk was observed in most countries.”

  9. Mark Lyndon Says:
    September 16th, 2009 at 7:16 am

    I posted links, but I think they may have gone to a spam folder. Could you check please?

  10. ADAM JADHAV » Blog Archive » A year-in-review Says:
    January 1st, 2011 at 10:37 am

    [...] went to Kenya, got stalked by children, played with wild animals (including a kick-ass leopard), followed an NGO performing circumcisions, [...]

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