This 12-year-old girl could be part of your life, a cherished part. A daughter, a niece, a next-door neighbor. Imagine telling her that she has an incurable blood disease.
That’s what The Luke Commission counselors encounter at every mobile hospital outreach in rural Eswatini. At each site, 200 to 300 Emaswati test. Many patients learn they are HIV negative and are counseled how to stay that way. For those who are positive, however, earthly life changes forever.
The 7th grader comes to a TLC mobile hospital outreach, because she has heard she could get a new pair of shoes. Feeling sickly of late, the girl does not understand why her skin itches… and itches… or why she coughs every day. Deep down, though, she suspects.
“I came to an outreach last year and was feeling fine. This year I thought I would test. My friends were.”
The oldest of seven children, this schoolgirl often cares for her two brothers and four sisters. Her mother and step-father are HIV positive, she admits reluctantly.
Predictably, her test is positive. Another test is given to verify the new diagnosis, before the youngster is told her status in a private counseling “room” made with tarps.
“She cried and cried,” says a TLC counselor. “It’s so hard to tell a child her results.”
The patient’s blood is drawn to determine the level of compromise to her system. An unaffected, normal CD4 count is above 800. This girl’s is 13, dangerously low. Full-blown AIDS.
|A Luke Commission staff member comforts a young girl whose fears have just been validated. She is HIV+ and very ill.|
Traveling with the outreach staff later that night, the youngster is taken to Miracle Campus to be immediately enrolled in Anti-Retroviral Treatment. Medical personnel hope to keep her on campus for two weeks to monitor her progress. However, her mother takes her home earlier.
“We will follow her progress, or lack of it, from afar, but we were disappointed that we couldn’t keep her at the Miracle Campus longer,” says a TLC nurse. “We hope to test the younger children, too, but the family dynamics are difficult and resistant to what needs to be done to fight HIV long-term.”
Why do we tell this story on this day? Simply, the battle is not over for your neighbors, your children, in Eswatini. And we thought you’d like to know