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Impact Stories: A life of hope and normalcy for People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) – Part 1

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The Kenya Economic Development Human Advancement Project (KEDHAP) is the development, peacebuilding, and relief arm of the Kenya Mennonite Church in the Diocese of Kisumu East. Thanks to YOUR support, KEDHAP has steadily grown and now serves thousands of participants through a wide range of programs in impoverished rural areas.

KEDHAP’s primary work is in Female Empowerment, Education, Community Development, Health Education, Peace-making & Reconciliation, Food Security & Income Generation, and Leadership Development. A noteworthy project is KEDHAP’s assistance to People living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA), wherein KEDHAP provides food for those unable to work or grow food, and seeds and other materials for those who can grow their own food.

The PLWHA program has been community-driven from its inception in 2000. By talking openly about the effects of HIV/AIDS on families, creating awareness, and supporting those who have declared their status, KEDHAP has helped reduce the stigma of the disease and encourage responsible behavior.

Overcoming Stigma: Countering Misconceptions

Although many consider HIV/AIDS a death sentence, it is still possible to live a long, healthy life with the help of ARVs (anti-retro-viral drugs). ARVs are NOT a cure; they have to be taken for life. They will, however, prevent HIV from spreading through the body and can prevent it from developing into AIDS. It is essential never to skip a dose when taking these drugs. It is also crucial to never miss a doctor’s appointment and follow all the doctor’s instructions. Healthy lifestyles also become important as such people are more vulnerable to disease.

Many people stigmatize those living with HIV/AIDS because it is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). They may believe these people have the disease because of their actions and need to be isolated away from society! However, people with HIV/AIDS also deserve love, respect, and dignified lives. People living with HIV are valued members of our communities who make valuable contributions to society.

A Holistic Approach to Supporting the PLWHAs

KEDHAP works towards improving health (and access to care) through various activities such as providing economically disadvantaged students (especially girls and orphans) with access to secondary education, providing deserving female students with sanitary supplies to allow them to attend school all month-long, supporting orphaned and vulnerable children, improving hygiene practices and education of such in schools, facilitating access to Comprehensive Care Clinics (CCC) for PLWHAs, enabling access to information, enabling capacity-building for KEDHAP-affiliated groups, providing subsidized food and seeds to those in need, and providing alternative options for healthy food through the promotion of organic farming.

Ogen CCC adolescents attending a group therapy meeting.
Adolescents members after receiving Maize and Cash at the Ogen CCC

Stories of Impact: Love, Dignity, and a Sense of Normalcy

One of KEDHAP’s goals is to follow up on the adolescents under their support, understand the impact of their support on these children’s lives and listen to their stories. These impact stories focus on the impact of the support given to beneficiaries through the PLWHA’s Ministry. Read the stories of two adolescents who are members of the ‘Support Groups’ in Tamu and Ogen Comprehensive Care Clinics.

KEDHAP currently has 78 HIV+ adolescents who are given support monthly in these two facilities. Aside from a collaborative effort involving the government to provide ARV medicine, KEDHAP offers transport, maize, counseling, and seeds to adolescents. These stories target some of the most vulnerable individuals under KEDHAP’s support, who have been enabled to live a life of dignity and normalcy.

1. Jerusa: From Despair to Desire

Jerusa felt miserable in school that day. All her friends had gone out to play, but she stayed back in class, feeling rather poorly. This was the third time that she had fallen ill this month. Her mother would be taking her to meet the doctor at the local Ogen Clinic to figure out what was happening with her…

Jerusa Achieng was enlisted as a member of the KEDHAP Support group at the tender age of 11. When Jerusa was in grade 5, she often fell sick and missed school. A doctor at the local Ogen Clinic recommended an HIV test, and sadly, Jerusa was found to be HIV+. In a deplorable health condition, Jerusa was immediately put on ARV medication. Only two out of five children in her family are HIV+. With the support of Ministry of Health officials and KEDHAP, she and her widowed mother were counselled, and the support helped them accept their condition. This intervention was the turning point in their lives, a start towards leading a dignified hopeful life. Jerusa sat for her KCSE exams in 2021 and hopes to go to college for a diploma course.
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KEDHAP assists individuals like Jerusa with monthly transport to reach the clinic and get their medication on time. They are also provided with maize for nutrition, which is essential while taking ARV medication. Psychosocial support and counselling are beneficial services that KEDHAP staff offers to such individuals. This approach encourages HIV+ adolescents like Jerusa to stay healthy and live openly.

It’s not by choice that we are HIV+. All that we ask is for you to love and support us.

Jerusa, HIV+ Patient at Ogen CCC Tweet

Jerusa is now an adolescent mentor at Ogen Clinic. She counsels her peers with encouragement and ways to live positively. She leads by example by showing that despite having HIV, adherence to medication, adopting healthy habits, and having the right mindset; can enable one to live a normal life!

Jerusa's Family is grateful receive essential supplies from a KEDHAP staff.
Jerusa has successfully farmed some crops with the seeds gifted by KEDHAP.
The family is grateful for the emotional and financial assistance provided by KEDHAP.

Jerusa says, “The support I get from KEDHAP has helped me tremendously. It was initially difficult for me to reach the facility in good time due to the distance I had to travel. KEDHAP has helped me with money for transport, and I can now get to the facility in time for counseling sessions and medicines. The drugs are heavy on the body, and taking them on an empty stomach can make you tired and discourage you from continuing with the prescription. KEDHAP’s food program has enabled me to take medicines with ease! I am happy that my weakened immune system, which was causing multiple opportunistic infections and a high viral load, has slowly been strengthened through this support.  My immunity has been boosted, and my viral load is almost zero now.

I would advise my fellow patients to adhere to the drug therapy and follow the instructions given by the health professionals. In case of a health problem or opportunistic infection, consult the doctor immediately, have a positive mindset, and above all, pray for God’s guidance and protection. This mindset has helped me stay in school and anticipate a positive future. I pray for support for all those who are HIV+, especially children. We struggle and ask so many questions, especially when we are diagnosed with HIV, some of us live in denial, and some still suffer because of the stigma at school and within the community. It’s not by choice that we are HIV+. All that we ask is for you to love and support us. THANK YOU, KEDHAP, and all our Donors”

2. Bernard: Living an Enabled Life

Bernard’s grandmother carried him and lay him down on his bed. As she stroked his hair, she closed her eyes and said a word of prayer, asking God for strength to face another day. She worried for him and his future, but she still believed there was hope..

13-year-old Bernard Otieno is a physically and mentally disabled boy living with HIV who is currently only in grade 1. Her mother abandoned him, leaving him with his grandmother, who has cared for him since he was seven months old. She discovered his condition when he was taken for a consultation, and he was immediately put on ARVs at Tamu CCC. Bernard’s grandfather is also physically and mentally challenged due to a stroke he suffered long ago. Bernard’s grandmother is the breadwinner of a family of seven. She is a casual laborer who works on people’s farms to support her large family. Despite all these challenges, her disposition is one of hope! She has been a powerful influence in Bernard’s life.
Bernard hopes to go a special school with your support!
KEDHAP blesses vulnerable adolescents like Bernard through home visits and donating supplies.
Bernard with his family during a home visit by KEDHAP staff.

She says, “KEDHAP has been of great help to my family because it is often not easy to put food on the table for them.  Whenever Bernard attends the clinic, we are always assured of a meal. He is normally frail when I have nothing to feed him. The clinic is very far from our home, and he is too heavy for me to carry on my back to the facility. The money for transport has helped me arrange passage one way. I planted the maize and carrot seeds you gave us, and they flourished! This will ensure that there is food in my house to feed my grandson and my entire family. Thank you so much even for the foodstuff you brought us. I wish I could enroll him in a school for the disabled, but we lack money for school fees. I pray that our well-wishers support him!”

The money from KEDHAP has helped me arrange for transport one way, from the clinic to my home.

Bernard's Grandmother of HIV+ Patient at Tamu CCC Tweet

How can I help?

Thanks to your involvement, these children will grow up with dignity and be empowered to lead healthier lives.

KEDHAP has impacted the lives of hundreds of PLWHAs thanks to YOUR support and encouragement. Your gift can be the difference between a life of fear and a life of empowerment for many vulnerable people like Jerusa!

Are you ready to change a child’s life? Give a gift TODAY here.

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