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Behold!! The return of gonorrhoea


The shocking news of the year is that gonorrhoea has become hard to treat in a century of advanced medical breakthroughs.

This is attributed to decreased condom use, increased urbanisation and travel and poor detection rates which is worsened by the fact that gonorrhoea is characterised by bacteria which mutates thus resisting the types of antibiotics in the market today.

Gonorrhoea, or kisonono in Kiswahili, is easily discovered among men: There is pus and pain. But it has mild symptoms in women — which can sometimes be mistaken for bladder infection or vaginal infection. If not careful, one can go for long realising they have the infection.

We are in the 21st century, but kisonono was discovered around 1879 when gonococcus or Neisseria gonorrhoea were proven to be the causative agents.

Kisonono was referred to as the clap because infected persons experienced a clapping sensation while urinating. Most victims were male as brothels were the in-thing.

Before antibiotics, kisonono was treated using mercury, then penicillin. When we were young, this was the most-feared disease due to its high element of shame. Kisonono meant one had slept nyama kwa nyama with a hooker. Believe me, those days, we were Bible-thumping Christians and kisonono was a sin next to murder.

Victims tried hiding until they healed. Kisonono made many men sterile.

Those days, the City Council clinics were effective and in Nairobi, the treatment for kisonono was done at a clinic around Casino Cinema and saying ‘naenda Casino’ only meant one thing. It was the Ministry of Health policy that both partners be treated. So you can imagine the shame of appearing with a prostitute as the nurse shouted that victims hold their partners’ hands. Treatment for kisonono was via penicillin administered through injection. The syringe was almost the size of the one used on livestock! That syringe had men literally struggling to climb walls like Spider-man. Men later chewed blackouts after urinating on themselves. After that, most men gave brothels a wide berth.

Medicines like tetracycline came in — and it was a normal thing to even hear hawkers mentioning the word “capsule” while peddling it. Just as the world got around to managing kisonono and syphilis (kaswende), HIV/Aids came knocking, and it was quite a challenge as it decimated whole populations before it was contained with ARVs. It is no longer a death sentence.

HIV/Aids made people to be more careful. They checked their morals. Big celebrities like the late Congolese giant Franco even composed a 1987 song titled, Attention Na Sida, while the late Prince also sang Sign O’ the Times, in the same year.

As for kisonono, I will blame our society for its return as it had been controlled, what with access to online porn sites, the onset of oral gonorrhoea which is resistant to treatment? The invention of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and morning-after pills have also contributed to the increase in gonorrhoeal infections, as these have seen people dropping their guard.

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