Thursday, September 10, 2009
Kaptembwa is not that far from Nakuru but, for some reason, there was a more prosperous feel about some of the homesteads and fields. We were there to visit people who are HIV positive and taking antiretrovirals (ARV). But people taking ARVs can, in most cases, go back to the work they were doing before they became ill. One woman we visited kept hens, goats and sheep. She also grew maize and various vegetables and had a small shop, a hole in the side of the house, to sell food and other day to day items to neighbours. It is a long way from the nearest big shops, but that is handy for people who can be enterprising, as this woman is.
The picture is not as rosy for many people because once they have Aids, they can suffer a lot of illness. ARVs don't work as well for some people as they do for others. One family we visited had to move from a bigger house when the father and mother found they were both HIV positive and in need of treatment. The father of the family is unemployed, as is his wife. His young boy is also HIV positive and suffering from various illnesses as a result. The youngest in the family, a three month old girl, may turn out to be HIV negative, it's not always certain at that age.
It's no secret that catching HIV early, before it results in people losing their livelihoods, is something worth concentrating on. But for people who are very poor and perhaps unemployed before they become infected, an early diagnosis may not help much. The family with no income get free drugs but can't always afford trips to health centres to collect drugs and for other visits. They can't afford a good variety of food to keep themselves and the children healthy. Children need a good diet, especially. But also, people who are on ARV treatment suffer side effects if they don't have a good level of nutrition. Some suffer so badly that they just stop taking their drugs.
Much of the money spent on HIV/Aids goes to drugs but many people infected and affected by this disease need a lot more than drugs. They need good food, clean water, proper housing, health, education and social services. Some people are doing well despite being HIV positive. But some are doing no better than they were before becoming infected while most are a lot worse.