Corn and beans against the hunger and for surviving with HIV

by Katja Weber, 2011/10/05

Spontaneous cheers, shrill warbling and laughing faces - this is how the men and women expressed their gratitude on last Thursday for being provided with food for the next few weeks. They come from different villages surrounding the small market town of Gai in the east of Kenya, but there is one thing they have in common: they are hungry. And they are HIV positive.

On the one hand, the Tei Wa Yesu Health and Family Care Center in Gai is simply a normal rural hospital. On the other hand, it disposes of a very special department: people can come here to have themselves tested for an HIV infection.

Those who are HIV positive and brave enough to admit it, receive regular treatment there. They are given medications to strengthen their immune systems and to help their bodies live with the disease. However, these drugs should not be taken on an empty stomach, since they could cause severe nausea and the patients would for a short time be worse off than without the drugs.

In times like these this poses an even larger problem to the babies, children, women and men: they do not have enough to eat and are weakened to start with. If on top of all this they cannot take their drugs, their bodies' defences stop working completely. In this case they suffer immensely from diseases that otherwise would only be slight diseases of the immune system - and this could even be fatal for them.

Therefore, humedica has decided to provide the 120 HIV-/Aids patients (among them 15 children) and their families with beans, corn and oil from the local market for a period of three months. Furthermore, as strengthening ration at the beginning of the campaign, we distributed milk powder and soup - donated by German companies.

Florence Mali Musunza is one of the lucky women who have been provided with 30 kilograms of corn, 30 kilograms of beans and 2.5 litres of oil today. She had set out at four o'clock in the morning and walked 27 kilometres to get here.

An idyllic meeting, over which a shadow is cast nevertheless, since both Johnston (on the left) and Florence (2nd from the left) are HIV positive. humedica employee Joshua Ogola and employees of the Tei Wa Yesu encourage the patients not to give up. Photo: humedica/Katja Weber

She walks this distance once a week in order to receive her medications. Sometimes she brings new patients with her. She is an honorary social worker and, by means of what she has on the one hand learned at the hospital and on the other hand experienced herself, she helps other HIV positives to overcome the stigma and to ask for help.

Some would rather die than admit the disgrace of suffering from "Aids". They give up themselves, and their entire families with them. Because they cannot go to work anymore, they do not have the money to buy food and to send their children to school. Florence has known that she is HIV positive since 2007. Thereupon, her husband also had himself tested. He, too, is positive.

Their children are HIV negative and the parents now take a lot of time to explain them the dangers of the disease. On a normal day, Florence would also walk back home - a trip that takes her five hours.

But today she will allow herself the luxury of travelling by some means of transport - in order to take the heavy, wonderful gift for her family home with her. Now they will have enough food for two entire weeks. And Florence and her husband will be able to take their life-saving drugs.

The virus does not even spare older people: Johnston Ketheka Rongo is 60 years old and he got to know that he is HIV positive only in April of this year. A brave man who now offers advice and support to other people and encourages them to follow his example, have themselves tested and ask for help.

And also for him this commitment starts in his own family. His wife knows that she does not suffer from the infection. He tells us frankly: she was angry when I received the results - since he must have contracted the disease from someone else. Since then they have not had any sexual contact.

Johnston also talks about it to his children, some of whom are already married, and he encourages them to have themselves tested - and above all to be more careful and faithful than him.

Apart from the work with HIV-/Aids patients, the employees of the hospital also have a big heart for children. They support 75 orphans of the area. The orphans live with foster families, as they are to grow up as naturally as possible - and humedica also supports these families by means of providing them with food.

For three months the children will have enough to eat, will be able to attend school with a full belly and to fall asleep without the burning sensation of hunger.