Tag Archives: HIV

Comedy critic Kate Copstick explains to me the importance of Drug Holidays

Kate Copstick sees rays of hope spread in Kenya

Comedy critic Kate Copstick is currently in Kenya, working for her Mama Biashara charity which helps poor people (mostly women) set up their own small businesses. Today she updated me on what has happened to some of the people at a clinic mentioned in my blog a couple of days ago.


The lady with the strange brown creeping growth across her corneas  has a collection of antibiotic and antifungal eyedrops and the man with the pus-extruding eye socket has some turbo-charged antibiotics. But it is the ladies with ‘pain’ who are at the front of the queue.

Something wonderful happens here. Really REALLY wonderful.

As I get out the car, I am grabbed from behind. We need David to pick up Zetta and Neil at the airport and I am not shelling out £25 for just that, so we have the luxury of the car all day. The person who grabs me from behind is the little 82-year-old shosho with the 12 grandkids. She is beaming, positively bouncing. She pulls me over to the side of the road and there,  resplendent in the sunshine, is her new business: a whole sack of sweet potatoes set out in neat piles of three on  the ground.

Across the road is the other shosho with the legs like twin Jimmy Krankies. She appears to have perked up with the cod liver oil, Vitamin E, garlic and lecithin. She is out doing business for the first time in a while. But still has no shoes. I go off and do battle with a bloke for a pair of  boat-like sandals with Velcro straps that I hope will go over her massively swollen feet. They do !! They are a little Birkenstock-like but I don’t tell the shosho she now looks like a lesbian.

Josephine has turned up to get her antibiotics (throat and glands) and her acyclovir (shingles). But I want her to come and meet my friend Janet Ogindo.  Josephine only got her HIV diagnosis at our clinic on Wednesday and I want her to talk to someone who can reassure her and advise her. Plus her CD4  count is 234 and I don’t want to take her to a bog standard HIV clinic as they will just bang her full of ARVs – antiretrovirals – right away.

We take her over to Ngando and spend a totally wonderful hour or so with Janet and Joanne. Janet has borderline liver failure now, after ten years on ARVs.  Her CD4 count is good, her viral load is undetectable. All that is killing her now is the sheer toxicity of the drugs. So, like increasing numbers of people over here, she is considering a Drug Holiday.

Joanne already has changed her regimen and takes one month off every three. And feels much better. We all know other people who have either stopped completely, take one month on, one month off or take the drugs only when they have a flare up. All of them seem to be doing very well.

There are support groups for people who want to do this, as doctors  cannot – and generally will not – openly condone it. It does seem to depend on what strain of the virus you have. But I give Janet a huge bag of vitamins and supplements, arrange a supply of beetroot juice and tell her we know where she can get really good nettle tea. She is now a really dear friend and I don’t want to lose her to drug toxicity.

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Filed under Drugs, Kenya

Kate Copstick in the slums of Kenya: ethnic tension, evictions and rent boys

Kate Copstick in London earlier this week

Comedy critic Kate Copstick was last heard-of in this blog on Tuesday, just before she headed off to Kenya, where her Mama Biashara charity helps poor people – mostly women – start up their own small businesses.

This morning, I got an e-mail telling me what has been happening in Kenya:



The first workshop I did with Doris was in an outlying area where we had financed 32 women.

Their businesses were generally doing very well. Again, some were doing amazingly well.

However, we are nearing election time.

Which means unrest.

The women we financed were Kikuyu women. Their landlord (even slums have landlords) is a Luo.

Last election time, there was a great deal of violence directed at Kikuyu. And so no Luo wants Kikuyus on his land come the election – just in case.

So this landlord served eviction notices on the entire community. The men in the community cut up a bit rough. And so, one night, the landlord came with a bulldozer and flattened the entire area. Houses, possessions, businesses … All flattened in one night. Some places were even set on fire if the tenants clung on.

So now our 32 Kikuyu women are homeless and possessionless as well as businessless.

The same thing has happened to the groups of women we funded outside Narok in the rural Rift Valley.  Because this community was mixed – some Maasai, some Kikuyu and some mixed blood – they have been evicted and the Kikuyu and the mixed bloods sent off to different areas.  These woman are regrouping, but the groups have been split up according to tribe now and so it is all change.

Here, there is always some sort of new challenge that we cannot even imagine in the UK.  And the only place to learn is down here at grass-roots level.

In other news, the bloke with the pus-filled lungs and the infected piles responded to the medication I gave him and is now healthy and gainfully employed in Westlands, the women with high blood pressure have responded incredibly well to high strength garlic supplements, there are little businesses all over Kawangware, the Limuru group are blooming, the mira boys are expanding at a rate of knots and, all in all, we have won more than we lost.


Thank goodness for my wellies !!

The little workshop with the Dispossessed is in a small settlement now situated in a swamp. I generally think when the liquid one is wading through has a bluey green tinge and an iridescent shimmer… with bits bobbing around… it is best to have impermeable footwear.

The other thing I notice here is that almost all the women are HIV+  and several of them are looking after orphans as well as their own children. The family is strong here. Grandparents and aunties look after a woman’s children when she dies. It is an impressive thing to do considering no-one exactly has extra anything to share.

There is also a group of eight rent boys who have a terrific business plan for a small butchery business.

They buy from the local abattoir and sell fresh meat to small  businesses as well as cooking and selling the rest themselves.  They get about £150 from us to start the entire business including a month’s rent on the small place they have found near the terminus (great for selling food).  They have worked out their profit and have plans for eventual expansion.

Lovely guys.  And a good group dynamic.

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Filed under Africa, Charity, Kenya, Politics

Comedy critic Copstick on the drunken rape victim and the convicted footballer

Kate Copstick thinks the victim was not necessarily innocent

Comedy critic Kate Copstick is out in Nairobi at the moment. She wrote about her work there in this blog a couple of months ago.

She runs a charity – Mama Biashara – which helps HIV positive Kenyan women to set up small businesses, thus making them financially independent. She wants, she says, “to give them a hand up, not just a hand out.”

But she has been keeping in touch with what has been happening back in Britain and has sent me the thoughts below. The thoughts she fearlessly expresses here are hers.


Yet again, as I skirt those strange little rivers  with the iridescent  scum and the unmistakable smell that run through most slum areas in the wet season, as I sit with another group of women for whom abuse is as much a part of their day as is hunger, despair and worry for their children, I feel  the rage bubbling up like a serious case of acid indigestion.

Back in Britain, some idiot Welsh twat – 19 or 20 depending on which rag’s clichés you read – went out, got absolutely shit-faced, went to a hotel room with some footballers and shagged. Only she says she can’t remember it. And  they end up in court charged with rape and now one of them is in jail for five years. No violence, no suggestion that anyone poured intoxicating substances down her poor unwilling throat. 

If she had got that drunk and hit someone, then her drunkenness would not be a defence. If she had driven a car and crashed it she would have been committing a crime. But she didn’t. She lay down and got shagged. And suddenly she is the innocent victim. She was too drunk. She doesn’t remember. She couldn’t have consented. If he claimed the same thing … no, can’t see it would establish his ‘innocence’.

I studied law. In Glasgow. Scots Law is based on Principles – like justice, fairness … It comes from the fine heritage of Roman Law. In that law there is something called a Res Nullius. It is something which has been abandoned.  Deliberately or negligently abandoned. It belongs to no-one. Because its erstwhile owner has – deliberately or negligently – abandoned it. It cannot be ‘stolen’. Because it has been abandoned. It cannot be ‘criminally damaged’. Because its owner has given it up. It cannot be raped.

OK, I have had some pretty indiscriminating sex with some pretty indiscriminating people. There is not much fun to be had from shagging a girl who is off her face on something plentiful and probably vodka-based. But surely it does not amount to one of the worst crimes on the statute book?

The women I work with have plenty to complain about. But they don’t. And no-one speaks for them. Maybe some of those who shout so loudly about the rights of stupid girls, well over the age of consent, to incapacitate themselves, make their way into what is blindingly obviously a sexual situation and then be treated like a priceless Dresden china doll should consider that they are not the ones in need of help, rights-wise.


Filed under Drink, Kenya, Legal system, Sex

The death of an unknown man who was a “legend”

Mij Currie, died in Colchester on New Years Eve.

He was the older brother of Scots comedienne Janey Godley. He was born Jim Currie, but was always known as Mij (their father’s name Jim spelled backwards).

He was unknown except to his family and friends, but he was the person who first persuaded his friend Jerry Sadowitz to perform as a magician then as a comedian – Jerry’s first shows were at Janey’s pub in the East End of Glasgow.

According to a Tweet yesterday, Jerry’s reaction to Mij’s death was “he was a fucking legend”.

Mij had been addicted to heroin for years, then addicted to methadone… then he became HIV Positive… then he got cancer… he pretty much beat them all. When he was given chemotherapy for his cancer, they told him to expect nausea and for his hair to fall out. Neither happened. Presumably he had abused his body so much previously in his life that chemotherapy was a mere gnat’s bite.

The last time I met him, we walked along Frinton seafront, chatting. He was a nice, gentle man whenever I met him, though he had been very violent when younger (there are horrifying tales in Janey’s autobiography Handstands in the Dark).

He once believed he was the rock star Bryan Ferry.

Everyone has an effect on everyone else. The butterfly effect.

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Filed under Books, Comedy, Drugs, Magic