My name is Diana Adhiambo Okungu. I’m a widow with two daughters aged 14 and 9 years.
My husband was the family breadwinner. When he was alive we lived in Nairobi where he ran a curio shop. In 2004, my husband became sick. As his illness progressed, the business suffered and we were forced to close it and return to our marital home in Nyakach, a rural town about 60 kilometers from Kisumu city.
My husband passed away in September 2005 after ailing for over a year. He had a chronic stomachache and diarrhea and lost a lot of weight during his illness. During this time he adamantly refused to be taken to the hospital. When he eventually agreed to be taken for treatment, he was admitted at the Kisumu District Hospital (KDH) for only two days before he died.
I too was sick. Before my husband’s death, I was sick with fever and had a growth on my neck. I went to KDH for treatment and was told to go for some tests, but I didn’t go because I did not have the money to pay for the tests. Instead I went back home to Nyakach.
My illness became worse; the more sick I became the more weight I lost. In October 2005 I decided to go back to KDH for treatment. At KDH I met the clinical officer who had attended my husband. He talked to me and advised me to find out my HIV status.
Following his advice, I went to the KDH Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) center for an HIV test, but I was not happy with the service I received there. I decided to try another VCT center, which is how I ended up at Lumumba Health Center. I took the test and the results showed that I was HIV positive. I was referred to the FACES program for care and treatment and booked to return for HIV education the following day.
After being enrolled in the FACES program a number of tests were done. My CD4 count was 354 and my weight was 53 kg. I was also sent to the provincial hospital where a chest x-ray and biopsy were done for free. When the results came in from these tests, I was immediately put on TB drugs. I later learned I had TB adenitis.
In mid-2006 I got malaria and was very sick; I was paralyzed for some time, had anemia, and my CD4 dropped to 252. I was put on malaria treatment and started on antiretroviral treatment (ART) after completing an intensive phase of TB treatment.
I was forced to relocate from Nyakach to Kisumu to stay with my younger sister so that I could easily access care.
In 2008 I applied for a peer educator volunteer position with FACES. I was called for an interview and was delighted when they called me for the position.
The responsibility of a peer educator is an important one as this is often the first person to come in contact with the clients. Through trainings, continuous medical education and on-the-job training, I acquired skills and experience to handle the cases I came across in the line of duty. The stipend I received enabled me to rent my own house and I was able to bring my kids to Kisumu to live with me. They are now in school.
In mid-February 2010 I moved up to a Clinic and Community Health Assistant (CCHA) position after a successful interview. I’m now a salaried employee of the FACES program. I believe this is because of my determination, commitment, hard work, and support that I have received from the FACES family, especially from the CCHA department.
I’m not sick anymore; I’m living with a condition. My CD4 has shot up and my viral load is down to an undetectable level. I have disclosed my status to my parents, other family members, and my in-laws.