A proven way to slow the progression of HIV to AIDS

March 8 is the 100-year anniversary of International Women’s Day — a day to celebrate the accomplishments of women and reaffirm our commitment to gender equality. This week, Poverty 180 focuses on women in relation to education, clean water, HIV/AIDS and gender-based injustice.

Living with HIV/AIDS — From thoughts of suicide to hope for the future
Leriange Gelin started planning her suicide three days after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. She selected a friend who would receive her favorite chair. She wanted other belongings to go to her children.

“I was crying and crying,” she says. “I felt like I was waiting to die.”

Devastated, Leriange told no one but her close relatives and her HIV-positive husband about her status, for fear of the disease’s dangerous stigma in Haiti, where she lives. She felt alone, overwhelmed and severely depressed.

Depression is twice as common in people with HIV than in the general population. Studies have shown that depression speeds up the progression of the virus HIV into the disease AIDS.

Understanding this, Food for the Hungry helped create a program to encourage and empower people affected by the virus.

Leriange (right) and her husband (left) were referred to FH’s program by the hospital where they got tested.

Depression and HIV/AIDS

FH addresses the psycho-social aspect of those living with HIV/AIDS. Trained Haitian staff educate and give emotional support to affected people through classes, support groups and one-on-one case management. Through this program, Leriange and her husband discovered hope to live.

When HIV/AIDS patients suffer from depression, they lack motivation to care for themselves or to sustain their health. Through FH, Leriange has learned how to move forward in hope and health with antiretroviral drugs, immune-supporting tactics, healthy habits and treatment for depression. She’s rediscovered hope for her life.

Leriange and her husband are carefully looked after by Mickelle Luxmae (right) who checks in monthly to monitor their emotional health and to offer encouragement.

Not all of their worries have vanished — Leriange’s husband still prays for a cure for AIDS. He searches for work and wonders how he’ll make a living. But the couple is thankful for their children’s health and for the presence of God in their lives.

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