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The woman who refused to go quietly

Posted by Administrator on June 30, 2011

Photo/FILE A lady prepares her HIV medicine.

Photo/FILE A lady prepares her HIV medicine.

Last year, while on a field tour in Nyeri to find out how the programmes we have there were faring, I came across *Hannah, one of the beneficiaries of our programmes.

I found her helplessly lying on a makeshift bed, on a floor in which were scattered maize cobs, which seemed to have been there for a long time.

She was unable to talk, since she had lost her voice, and I had to rely on her caregiver who, because of distance, visited her only twice a week.

One of her relatives filled me in, telling me that Hannah had spent most of her life working to ensure that her poor family was well taken of.

Hannah, the firstborn in her big family, had even postponed marriage until all her siblings had completed college. Unfortunately, her fiancé was diagnosed with tuberculosis some time back, and soon after that, HIV.

Shortly afterwards, the love of Hannah’s life died, leaving her heartbroken. It was during his burial that Hannah gathered courage to go for an HIV test.

The test turned out positive. Unable to handle the news, a devastated Hannah broke down and within a short time, she was too weak to work or do anything for herself.

Defeated, she packed her clothes, moved out of her rented house in Nairobi, and moved back to her rural home, where, quoting her, she would die quietly.

Soon after this, she lost her voice. By the time I visited her, she had lost so much weight that it was hard to believe she was the elegant-looking woman in the photos that one of her sisters showed me.

Frankly, I did no know what to offer Hannah. The least I could do for her was to have her transported to our Nairobi rescue centre for better care and physiotherapy.

Not that this was the silver bullet that she needed to get her life back, but I did not know what else to offer. I knew that there was so much expectation from her relatives, who hoped that somehow, I would make her situation better.

She was so wasted, I was convinced that she was staring death in the face. But to cover the shame of failure that I faced, I had her brought to Nairobi.

For the millionth time, I contemplated closing down the care programmes and focusing on something else. Something else that would indicate we were doing something, since all our efforts seem to be hitting a brick wall.

I wanted something that would never bring me face-to-face with another Hannah again.

I was traumatised by the looming prospect of losing Hannah, who was in her mid-forties and who would never enjoy the happiness of being a mother, thanks to the Aids-related complications which threatened to snuff out her life.

Anyway, the following day, Hannah was brought to our Nairobi rescue centre and, as usual, our caregivers gave her their best during the time she stayed here.

Personally, I had no hope and knew that only a miracle would bring Hannah back on her feet again. All the same, I visited the rescue centre a few days later to give Hannah some fruit juice.

I left for Sudan just as Hannah was beginning to recover, although I did not know that until much later. Finally, she left for her Nyeri home, healthy, positive, and looking forward to a bright future.

I was pleasantly surprised the other day when she submitted a request for money to start an income-generating activity. As I write this, Hannah is doing well, tending to her patch of land where all sorts of vegetables grow.

Her energy is back, and she never misses a group therapy. Hannah proved to us, and especially to me, that there is no hopeless situation.

This is the diary of Asunta Wagura, a mother of three who tested HIV-positive 24 years ago. She is the executive director of the Kenya Network of Women with Aids (KENWA).


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