As Jackline Awino* walks into the clinic all the staff turn and stare in disbelief – their looks of surprise quickly turn into looks of pleasure. Jackline is no stranger to the FACES clinic.
When Jackline first came to the Family AIDS Care and Education Services Clinic (FACES) six months ago, she was emaciated, needing help to walk, clearly ailing and struggling to breathe. Life had not been easy for Jackline, she had lost her husband to HIV and had been unable to fend for her needs because of her illness; forcing her to rely on relatives.
Speaking to her now after six-months of treatment for tuberculosis and four months of antiretroviral medication, I asked how she would describe her progress. She sighed for a moment and then quietly answered, “I feel like I am alive again. When I first came to FACES I was very thin, I was coughing all the time and had chest pain- I was sick all the time. I could not do any housework and needed help even to bathe…”
Curious to know more I asked her why she first went for VCT; she answered, “I had been unwell for a long time and I had four children, but I lost two who were sickly – so my brother advised me to go for VCT.” She says that after being diagnosed with HIV, she felt helpless but after counseling she realized that there is still hope. And what happened after VCT? “I was referred to FACES and found a clinic with a friendly atmosphere with compassionate people and I got encouraged.”
Now she has gained 15 kg, is robust, happy and able to do her housework and day-to-day activities without difficulty. She is planning to start a business to be able to provide for her and her children.
I am struck by the transformation in her life and amazed at the picture of hope and vitality that she represents. As the interview comes to an end I ask her if she has any closing comments; after a few moments she responds “FACES has made a great change in my life and HIV infected people should seek care early before it is too late. They should overcome stigma … and seek care so as to get a chance to live longer.” I walk away and remember what she had said earlier in the interview “even with HIV, I can now face the world!”
* Not her real name