Recently Rita Prins, WOW Executive Director, visited the Mgona Community. Here is an exert of her report.
As I walked the paths that weave around the closely built mud brick houses in Mgona I wondered what type of family situations I might find in the patient’s homes we were going to visit that day. Home Based Care (HBC) workers led the way through what felt like a never ending maze. Even though I had walked these paths many times, I knew I could never be prepared for the heart breaking situations we would encounter. When we stopped to rest in the shade of a building, waiting for others in our group to catch up, small children began to playfully sing “Azungu!!”, meaning “Foreigner!!”. A few even dared to touch my hand or arm for a brief moment before squealing and running off.
Soon we came up to a small two room house. The HBC workers called out our arrival and then pushed aside the thread bare sheet that hung in the doorway and invited us in. It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the darkness inside. The room had no windows with the only light coming from the doorway. Lying on the dirt floor in front of me was a very ill woman. She was so sick; she could not even acknowledge our presence other than opening her eyes every now and then.
The HBC workers explained that Emily was a 51 year old widow with 7 children. Currently she was staying in her brother’s house but because he needed to go out each day to find piece work, Emily was alone. I didn’t know where Emily’s children were and she was in no state to be asked.
We were told that Emily had just begun ARVs three months earlier but because she was so sick it could take a long time to improve her condition, if at all. ARVs need to be taken with food and Emily’s symptoms would not allow her to swallow anything solid. The HBC workers shared that Emily’s life was an example of why their job is so important. As they walked through the streets of Mgona they talk with community members, educating them about why people need to get tested for HIV early. If it’s left too late then the ARVs may not work and if parents keep dying, more and more children will be left to survive on their own. Unfortunately many people don’t believe that ARVs can help and if they take sick family members to the hospital to get tested and receive medicine then they will only prolong their illness causing them to be a burden on the family for a longer time which is very difficult for families living in survival mode.
More than half of the HBC workers in Mgona are HIV positive themselves and they are beautiful examples of lives that can be lived fully, lives that can be used by God to touch others. This is the message they are giving to the community as they walk through the streets of Mgona. Please pray for Emily and many others like her, as well as the HBC workers that sacrifice their time and emotions to reach out with the love of God every day.