When we were introduced to Elizabeth, she had stage 4 HIV/AIDS and had numerous social and other health problems. She was a 23 year old mother of one, who had returned to live with her parents after her husband left her when he found out that she was pregnant. When she left home (against her parents’ wishes) she did not have HIV, but when she returned to her village she was HIV positive.
Everyone in her parents’ village ostracized both her and her son; the other parents would not let their children play with her son because they thought he was HIV positive and would spread the disease to their children. Her parents, of a similar mindset, forced Elizabeth to move out of their house and live in a small grass-thatched structure as they thought she would give them HIV if she lived with them. She was completely isolated from everyone.
At first, Elizabeth, had severe body wastage due to the disease as well as severe Tuberculosis. She was depressed, alone, and waiting for death. The RHHJ team immediately gave her adherence support and collaborated with the local health centre to ensure that she got treatment for her tuberculosis and access to ARV drugs to manage her HIV. When we first met her, her viral load was over one million and her CD4 (white blood cell) count was undetectable. Fortunately, her son tested negative for HIV.
The last time her viral load was tested, it was at 500. She went from days away from death to a happy, healthy looking girl who has a chance and hope for her future.
People living with HIV can lead normal, happy lives as long as they take their medication properly; Elizabeth is a clear example of this.