ARVs – Mom, Why Am I Taking Medicine Daily?

Christine Akinyi Malingu during at interview with Women eNews Kenya at her Matisi Village home in Matunda, Western Kenya/PHOTO By Patrick Ngigi

September 22nd 2011, Western Kenya – On this particular day some 18 years ago, Phillip Wanganywa arrived at Kitale District Hospital from Busia in Western Kenya where he had accompanied his colleagues to bury a “friend”. Before that day, Phillip had attended several funerals weeks before, all of them to pay homage to his “friends”.

“After these funerals, I started developing strong doubt about my health; though I was not sick, I knew I would be next to die” Phillip tells Women eNews Kenya at his Matisi Village farm in Matunda, Western Kenya

Phillip Wanganywa, Husband to Christine during at interview with Women eNews Kenya, After atending many funerals for many of his "friends", he decided to take a HIV test

No one accompanied Phillip to Kitale District Hospital, he was alone and all he desired was a HIV test.

The HIV test results which turned out to be positive would later inform Phillip’s decision to apply for an early retirement at the Ministry of Health where he worked as an assistant accountant, at the time; his first born – now 17 years old HIV positive boy – was barely in nursery school.

In making his decision for an early retirement, Phillip now aged 45 years old had strong feeling he would not last long and his work station was the last place he wished to spend the rest of his days.

At home, his wife Christine Akinyi Malingu kept questioning him why he had to take such a crazy decision at a youthful age and just when their son was about to join nursery school

Christine says she was shocked at her husband’s decision, Phillip could hear none of her wife’s persuasion, and there was no turning back.

“I remember the day he announced he has tested positive”, 36 years old mother of five tells Women eNews Kenya. “It was devastating as it was traumatizing” she says

More than 15 years now, the couple is now living positively and routinely taking Anti Retro Viral drugs thanks to the AIDS, Population and Health Integrated Assistance (APHIA II) Project, a 5-year program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“My husband kept his HIV status secret, when his retirement package began dwindling and there was no money to spare, hardship became an everyday affair, it was at this moment he got the courage to narrated the ordeal” says Christine

She however says focusing too much on the past would bring no value to their present situation and prefer forging a positive way ahead especially for her HIV positive children

Three of the couple’s five children are HIV positive; they are all under a daily dosage of ARVs

Christine says the three- a boy and two girls –may have been infected with the virus at birth, during breastfeeding or when she was pregnant.

Christine says she realized she was HIV positive when she was pregnant; “had my husband opened up about his status long enough before I fell pregnant, perhaps we would have gotten a HIV negative baby” says Christine delivering her statement in a friendly tone

She however says she is happy the government has initiated prevention from mother to child transmission campaign.

“This sounds good music to my ears since I know my children, despite their HIV status will marry or get married and have HIV negative children” Christine says

Even with so much hope, the couple has had their share of distressing times “The difficult part living with my three HIV positive children was when the first born asked why he had to take medicine every day” she says

Although the eldest, 17 year old form 2 boy now knows and understands his HIV status, his education has slumped drastically from top ten when he joined primary school to below average presently

“I started seeing a change in my son’s performance when he was in class 7, it was around this time I told him the reason he had to take a daily dosage of the drug.

“It was my worst and lowest moment seeing my son cry day and night” Christine remembers as his husband nods in agreement

Christine who has managed to sustain her buoyant and enthusiastic interface during the 45 minute interview says she has managed to ensure the health of herself, her husband and five children is not compromised.

The couple gets supplementary assistance from Matunda Jua Kazi, a Community Based Organization that works to improve the wellbeing of people living with HIV and AIDS around Kakamega county in Western Kenya.

Despite operating on a tight budget, few staff and having to conduct an extensive outreach to meet hundreds of people in the grassroots, Christine is full of praise attributing her current state of wellbeing on the friendly nature Matunda Jua Kazi conducts its outreach activities

“Homes under our CBO surveillance are about 30 kilometers apart deep inside the villages, places inaccessible by road, local transportation known as BodaBoda is the mostly used” says Alice Mayende, Matunda Jua Kazi Director

“Funding, documentation, staff capacity and means of transport are the four important aspect of our work, if what we hear about cutting HIV/ AIDS funding is true, then so many people will suffer” Alice says.

According to reports published by PlusNews in August this year, international funding for HIV fell by 10 percent in 2010 from the previous year.

Activists worry that a continued reduction will undermine progress in global HIV prevention and treatment efforts.

In their annual report on international assistance for HIV/AIDS in low- and middle- income countries, the Kaiser Family Foundation and UNAIDS says that funding fell from US$7.6 billion in 2009 to $6.9 billion in 2010.

“The slowdown in spending is worrying because it comes at a time when treatment as prevention has been proposed to curb HIV infections, which will require heavy investment,” James Kamau, coordinator of the Kenya Treatment Access Movement is quoted saying in the report.

Story By Patrick Ngigi

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