Committed caregiver makes all the difference for woman suffering from AIDS

In rural parts of Africa, it can be a struggle for HIV-positive people to access antiretroviral (ARV) therapy — drugs that extend and improve the quality of life. To those who can get the drugs, however, a possibly even bigger hurdle is to take them on a perfect schedule. If not adhered to correctly, the ARV therapy won't help.

This means counseling and person-to-person support are vital to the success of someone embarking on this kind of treatment.

When FH staff in Northern Kenya found Susanna*, she not only had HIV but also suffered from cryptococcal meningitis and pulmonary tuberculosis (tuberculosis is the number-one killer of AIDS patients).

Susanna was referred to the Tumaini Medical Center, and FH staff began home-based care. After a little while, Susanna was found to have a hard time keeping up with the doses of medicine, so staff members from FH and the Tumaini Medical Center took a more concerted approach that included Susanna's whole family.

Every day for a month, a social worker visited Susanna's home to make sure she took her medicine. Explaining the science behind HIV, how ARVs work, possible side-effects of ARVs and the importance of attending follow-up medical appointments, the goal was to have Susanna adopt a lifelong commitment to ARV therapy. 

At the same time, Susanna's whole family was equipped to care for her better. Everyone was shown how to boost Susanna's immunity through different types of foods. They learned to assemble a care kit including soap, Vaseline, powder, and old, clean clothes for gauze.

Susanna learned how to treat pressure areas like her glottal muscles, ankles, elbows and shoulder blades. All family members adopted better practices in cleanliness and hygiene.

After this intensive care, Susanna could walk comfortably with minimal support — something she couldn't do before. She started gently exercising at home and got used to the regular doses of medication.

“All her families now can afford a smile,” say FH staff in Kenya, “since they no longer worry about her death after she completely made commitment to use of antiretroviral drug.”

*This name has been changed in the interest of privacy.


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