Monday, September 7, 2009

Fresh Perspectives on HIV from Rhonda, Nakuru

Photo: Sand quarries in Rhonda, Nakuru. Everything is done by hand.

Yes, I thought of Wales too. Apparently the whole area was once 'owned' by someone from the UK, perhaps that person was Welsh. It is a mining area. Sand, used for building, is mined here. It's very gritty sand, broken down volcanic rock. The whole area is covered in the softest, finest dust. It billows around your feet as you walk. But it gets into everything, your lungs, eyes, mouth...

But we were in Rhonda to meet some people who receive home based care. They are HIV positive people so they need help with food supplementation, drugs, hospital visits, household items and the like. Most of the people we visited were happy to be on antiretroviral treatment, happy to be surviving with HIV. Some complained about problems paying the rent, being able to buy enough food and things like that. But even some people who are well and employed are having these problems.

One person in particular shared his own, very interesting perspective on HIV. He is a pastor and was articulate in English and Kiswahili. He said that he accepted having HIV rather than some other illness because with HIV, you don't just sicken and die. Rather, you have time to help other people with HIV, to help other people to avoid HIV, to live a full and active life.

This man was only diagnosed as being HIV a few years ago, when he was already very sick. He was in a coma for two weeks, he then recovered and could get around in a wheelchair. Gradually he went from there to using crutches, then a walking stick and now he can walk a bit, unaided. After he spoke to us he was due to give a sermon.

His mother also had an interesting perspective. She reminded us that she stuck by her son and continues to stick by him, looking after his every need now that he is able bodied, just as she did when he was in a coma. And, despite the fact that her son is a pastor, this woman said she thought that some of the churches use the existence of HIV to make a lot of money. She was not criticizing all churches, just some that do more fundraising than distribution.


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