International Women’s Summit on HIV and AIDS, convened by the World YWCA in Nairobi, Kenya, July 4-7, 2007.

Kenya

Girl loses parents and siblings and test positive for HIV

The YWCA, UNAIDS and other partners in the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS discussed, planned, and pledged to answer a CALL TO ACTION: “We commit to create and sustain change for women and girls, particularly those infected and affected by HIVand AIDS. We will achieve change individually through our thoughts, words and actions, and collectively with our families, friends, colleagues, faith groups and communities as part of the global women’s movement.”

The AIDS pandemic has devastated millions of lives around the globe and it has been especially brutal in Africa, where more women are now infected than men. Here is the story of a 14 year old girl who shared her life’s story and hopes during a session on children and HIV:

“My name is Dorothy Akinyi Ochieng. I am a fourteen year old student in Olympic Primary School in Kibera. I was born in 1993 and my life was simple like the lives of other children living in the slums. I started school at age four and I was smart, healthy and hard working. We had a happy life until my mother passed away when I was in first grade. After that I started suffering from sickness and fever. My father did everything he could to get me admitted to the hospital. After about a week, I was admitted and the doctors kept me there for one month. They said it was just malaria.
My sickness continued for a very long time, but my father did not lose hope. He took me to the hospital every weekend. Then my father died and I felt even more sick. I also had frightening sores on my face that looked like burns. When the other children saw my face, they went away. A kind teacher took me to a hospital and I was given medicine and the sores went away and my face was smooth again, but I was still sick with headaches and diarrhea.
One day earlier this year a doctor asked me if I had ever been tested for HIV and I felt frightened, but I decided it is better to know my status. After the testing, the result was positive. I had no idea where the sickness came from. When I asked, the counselor told me that it came from my parents.

I was given antiretroviral medicine but my body could not get used to it, so I received another drug. Once I started feeling better I was able to tolerate the antiretroviral treatment and I am now strong enough to attend school. Despite my “positiveness,” I will not lose hope a single day in my life. I will do my best and I want to work hard to become a doctor and help the people who are in this situation like me. I thank my teachers and the GCN Program, may God put his blessing hand on you and the others.

After my parents died, my uncle and his wife also died leaving three children. My 16 year old aunt now takes care of me and my 20 year old uncle works in an industrial area and he buys food for us that my aunt cooks. There is no money for her to go to school, but I am lucky because an American called Judy Castein visited us last year and she gave money to help with food and so I can go to school. My little sister and brother died of AIDS when they were small. I have only my aunt and uncle now to help me, but I want to be a role model in Kibera and tell other sick children that if they take the medicine they can live for many years. Please pray for me and the other girls and boys in my school who are sick.”

There are more than 4 million orphans in Africa alone because both parents died of AIDS. According to U.N. statistics, in southern Africa between 1985 and 1990, 20 percent of people between the ages of 20 and 49 died of various causes. Between 2000 and 2005, 60 percent of all deaths occurred in people that age, leaving many children orphaned and inadequately cared for. To help the YWCA with HIV and AIDS related-programs and other critical services around the globe, send a check to YWCA World Service Council, 1015 18th Street, NW Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20036.
To help the World YWCA provide leadership training and program assistance to YWCAs in developing countries, send a tax deductible check to YWCA World Service Council, 1015 18th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036, Attention: Carrie Anderson. For more information, visit www.ywca.org or www.worldywca.org. Questions about this series of articles can be addressed to btatham@verizon.net and the articles may be downloaded and copied.

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