Christopher. (Photo: EGPAF, 2012)
My name is Christopher. My wife Everlyne and I are HIV-positive, but our two sons – three-year-old Norus Ombama and nine-month-old Budy Busaia -- are strong, healthy, and HIV-negative.
In 2006, while I was still working at Kenya Railways, I had been very sick, so I decided to get tested for HIV. When the tests came back positive, I was afraid to disclose my status to anyone. I battled with the sad news for one week before I told my wife. After being tested, she found out that she, too, was HIV-positive. We started going to counseling and were started on antiretroviral therapy (ART) immediately.
It has been a constant struggle to provide for the health and prosperity of my family since I lost my job at Kenya Railways in 2007. Afterward, my wife and I came home to our village in Emakale to work on our farm. We tried to keep a dairy cow, but it soon died, so then we began to seek a living by rearing cattle.
When we moved back to the village after I lost my job, we had to go to the district hospital for treatment. The hospital was very far from the farm, and we paid 150 shillings (US$2) each way for transportation. Because we weren’t able to farm at this point, we could not afford trips to the hospital, and so my wife and I did not have access to the medicine we needed to keep healthy. At the time, the Kilingili Health Center, which was only walking distance from our house, was not providing antiretroviral medicines (ARVs). We mobilized other HIV-positive people in our area and organized to discuss the absence of care and treatment services with the health center.
The health workers at the center were very supportive of our initiative, and linked us to USAID’s AIDS Population and Health Integrated Assistance (APHIA) project. By January 2008, my wife and I – along with the other HIV-positive people in our community – began collecting our ARVs from the Kilingili health center. We are very proud of our community for accomplishing this.
Today, the health center provides prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services. Through these services, my wife and I learned that even though we are HIV-positive, we could have HIV-negative children. We followed their medical advice, and my wife has since given birth to two beautiful and healthy HIV-free boys!
I now give back to my community as a volunteer peer educator at Kilingili Health Center. I help people who are living with HIV adhere to their ARV treatments, and I lead a support group in my village that focuses on income generation, nutrition, and health.
As a man, a father, and a husband, I am so proud to help educate other men about the reality of HIV. Even though there are only two men in our support group of 11, we will continue our efforts to reach families and to educate them about preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. My own family knows how important these tools are, because they have given us health and hope. I am convinced we will win this battle.
EGPAF is one of the key partners in USAID’s AIDS Population and Health Integrated Assistance (APHIA) project consortium, led by PATH. EGPAF’s focus is on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and strengthening the integration of HIV services within maternal and child health clinics. Kilingili Health center is one of nearly 400 PMTCT sites that EGPAF supports in western Kenya.