Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What can I do?

Yesterday morning I went with Auntie Becky to visit a lady who was diagnosed with HIV on Friday. She had been ill for some time, the family thought she had malaria and were treating her at home. You can buy just about any drug you like over the counter in the pharmacy which means people self diagnose then get what ever drugs they think they need. Saving the cost of visiting the doctor.

On Friday her aunt visited her and thought she should visit the doctor, so they went down to the clinic. She was diagnosed with TB and tested for HIV which was positive. So yesterday we went to her house to find she was still in the clinic so we went down there. When I saw her she was in a terrible state. Very thin, literally just skin and bones. Her Aunt told me she used to be very fat and had been losing weight for a few months. She had a saline drip which is her only source of intake as she is too weak to eat or drink. She has TB, malaria, thrush, skin lesions and diarrhoea. I know this lady did not have HIV she had AIDS and did not have long to live. The family wanted me to speak to her doctor. My assumptions were correct, she is dying and does not have long left. It is too late to threat the HIV they are trying to treat the opportunistic infections and keeping her comfortable. They can not treat her aggressively as they could as the family cannot afford the drugs. The clinic are doing their best. Many treatments would really be a waste of the families money, they know she will not live long. The plan will be to get her home to die. Her husband also has HIV and signs of various infections taking hold. He is not as advanced as her any may be able to receive some treatment. They have a 3 year old daughter, their younger child died at about one year old, I expect of AIDS but they just buried her not finding out how she died.

I find this situation so sad. The signs have been there for a long time. The woman would have had HIV while she was pregnant and passed it on to he child. She did not visit a clinic throughout her pregnancy where they would offer free HIV testing. Drugs could have been given to prevent the child becoming infected. The problem is many people do not want to know their HIV status. They feel nothing can be done to help them if they are positive so why bother finding out they are going to die. Even this woman's sister was using the same spoon to eat that she was using to try and feed her. Having oral thrush means she has wounds in her mouth and could pass HIV on though these. When the sister was told then she said "why should I live if she cannot". The sister has 5 children of her own, "think of your children, who will look after them." We told her. She agreed to stop.

How do we change people's attitudes and behaviours?

1 comment:

Ann said...

Thank you for sharing this story, Heather. It is very, very sad, but we need to be reminded about such suffering.