Story by JOHN KOIGI
Publication Date: 5/10/2008
The nurses didn’t think she should pull through.
Lying on her maternity ward bed at Kenyatta National Hospital in 2001, Wilkister Nduku was engulfed by a hopelessness and despair.
She had delivered a seemingly healthy baby, but instead of celebrating, she was worried about the impending end of her life. “I was informed that I was HIV positive. The baby too. I couldn’t accept it.”
Nduku, then, was working as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic while her husband was employed at soft drink company. They had a bright future ahead.
Her denial persisted until 2005 when the effects of the virus were begin to manifest themselves physically.
“The usual blame game over who infected the other had already set in. I resolved that in spite of what happened in my relationship, I had to survive because of my children,” says Nduku, 35.
The confirmation of the results at Bulbul Voluntary Counselling and Testing centre, Ngong, marked the start of her antiretroviral therapy, and the reversal of her rapid pace to an early grave.
“My CD4 count (which provides an estimate of the immunologic status of a person) was 90. Now, it’s 449.”
At one time, the mother of four had to take her children to their maternal grandmother. But, fate befell Nduku when the old woman was crushed to death by a lorry. “Other members of the family could not take in the children so I put them up at Kibera kids centre, a children’s home.”
Last year, ill luck struck Nduku again when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She now has to not only follow the strict ARV treatment regime but also the painful cancer therapy sessions at KNH.
“Every time I go down with an illness, I think of my children. Who will take care of them if I’m gone? Who will teach them the way of the world? I have to press on.”
Nduku is one of the beneficiaries of the Drug Resource Enhancement against Aids and Malnutrition (DREAM) centre opened at the Daughters of Charity, Lang’ata Road on Friday.
It’s an integrated public health model to fight HIV and Aids and malnutrition especially in poor countries. It is in 21 African countries amongst them Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Guinea.
The centre, by Community of Sant’Egidio, an Italian movement, claims unparalleled global success in the prevention of HIV infection and management of the disease among the infected.
Results in other countries show that up to 98 per cent of children whose HIV positive mothers are under the DREAM model are born without the infection, while nine out of 10 adults living with Aids start new, healthier lives after receiving Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (Haart) administered there.
It will offer VCT services, antiretrovirals, health education, drugs to prevent mother-to-child infection, prevent and cure of HIV-related illnesses, nutritional support and home-based care.
DREAM is targeted at the huge number of people living in the neighbouring informal settlements, notably Kware, Bangladesh, Stoney and Stage Kisii. These services will be offered free of charge.
Salome Gitari, a doctor at the DREAM Centre says most of the locally available services for HIV/Aids patients lack tailor-made expertise on the management and care of the infected.
The new centre also boasts state-of-the art testing kit. “There are only three places in the country where one can test their viral load; at KNH, Kemri and now at this centre,” said Gitari. “We also have the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine, which promptly shows results a HIV infection, unlike th