“I was afraid that my children would be orphans. I did not know who would fend for them.” These are the words of Rachel* a soft-spoken middle aged lady who attends the FACES clinic in Kisumu.
Rachel who hails from Ugenya has come a long way from home to seek care. Rachel, a widow and mother of two boys says that her family had left her for dead until her sister came and took her to Kisumu.
“How did you come to get tested for HIV?” She sighs and then quietly responds “I had been unwell for so long- my husband died in September 2001 and since then I have been sickly.” She goes on to tell me how her sister and neighbour had traveled over hills and valleys to bring her for voluntary counseling and testing. “I could not stand and had to be supported on either side I could not do any work and felt quite unwell.” On further enquiry she tells me she had had tuberculosis before but after being registered at FACES she was told that she needed to be treated again for it. “I had really suffered … I was growing thinner and thinner and my chest was always paining.” And now? “Now I have completed my medicine and now I feel healed.”
Encouraged by the fact that she had made such tremendous improvement I asked her what she did for a living. I was somewhat taken aback by the flood of tears that followed. Sobbing she says “HIV/AIDS leaves one with no resources when it strikes ,by the time one accepts to go for HIV test and seek treatment he or she has exhausted all the resources treating opportunistic infections.” We are both quiet for a moment. She sips a glass of water takes a deep breath and pauses again. Whilst I am still feeling awkward Rachel surprises me and smiles saying. “I thank my loving sister for bringing me … FACES for the compassionate care – I had lost hope but now I am hopeful again – I now see the light of life.”
I am struck by her resilience and thankful first for her sister who would not give up and then for Rachel’s hopeful outlook that in turn imparts hope for her children.
* Note: Names have been changed.