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A Whore's Royalties

“I once knew a whore in Nairobi…” I can’t claim the line. My whoring has never taken me to East Africa. But at least 50,000 clients of one Salome Simon in the slums of Nairobi can. A Canadian newspaper tells the story of the 44-year-old Tanzanian woman who, deserted by a husband years ago and left to feed three children, turned to the old trade for 70 cents a trick. She kept working her five to ten men per diem to feed and educate grandchildren, too. Nothing remarkable there, but this: Ms. Simon has never contracted HIV even though her colleagues’ roll call falls on tombstones, her daughter’s name among them. Her natural immunity is researchers’ Rosetta stone. Crack its code, and they may have a vaccine, a Nobel, a windfall in the billions. They’ve poured millions of dollars on studies and clinics in Ms. Simon’s neighborhood, dispensing condoms and collecting blood samples. But they’ve also kept her in business, a slave to johns, a slave to science. They pray she won’t die, or quit, or find the means to start her dream fruit-stand, which they could start for her for the price of two dinners, if they wanted to. One day a vaccine will be discovered. She’ll have played her part. It would be justice that the vaccine, or a new Nobel for medicine, be named after her and proceeds shared with her — not just for helping to crack a disease’s immunity from defeat, but for earning her trade royalties it has been owed before and since Mary Magdalene. That fantasy, of course, plus 70 cents, will get you in the sack with Ms. Simon’s next-of-corps.

L.D. Amabed Jr.

 

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