Good healthcare counts: It gives hope…it saves lives!

In her short time on earth, Nzuna Kiteme, 15, has lived more than most of us. From her little village, Mbondoni, she has fought more wars than most military combating, in her young life, fear, insecurity, stigma and the battle of them all: HIV/AIDS, the virus that killed her parents and left her orphaned at a tender age.

Nzuna Kiteme at Muthale

When first diagnosed with the virus in 2004, the lively Nzuna was devastated. With a CD4 count of 366 however, she was not in dire condition and therefore able to attend school and function normally on both the playground and at home. So “healthy” was she that the doctors recommended that she be placed on multivitamin drugs rather than ARVs. And so it was…until May 06.

“Nzuna has chest problems,” her grandmother conveyed, “I think she needs some medical care.”

Exhausted from a serious cough, fever and loss of appetite, Nzuna was in bad shape. We visited her promptly and alarmed by her condition, immediately took her to the Muthale Catholic Mission Hospital for testing. “Tuberculosis,” said the nurse, “but we think she will be fine.”

She wasn’t.

Though now on ARVs and treatment for the TB, Nzuna was sicker than ever. She stopped eating, dropped weight and in the words of her grandmother “she started dying.” How could everything go so wrong so fast! Acting quickly in February 2007, we referred her to the Nairobi Women’s Hospital where to our horror, in addition to the TB, they discovered pneumonia, a urinary tract infection and worst of all, a CD4 count of 20. It was looking bleak for Nzuna said her doctor; at best she had a 50/50 survival chance.

But Nzuna was not giving up.

For three months she endured countless injections, hundreds of pills and almost every X-ray or scan available. She started the second line of ARVs all the while with her doting grandmother by her side and the Twana Twitu community rallying behind her. And then the prayers started to work. Nzuna’s health started improving and with it her spirit and determination to keep fighting. When discharged – with a CD4 count of 230 – Nzuna came home to the welcoming arms of an ecstatic village. Our prayers had been answered!

Nzuna Kiteme

Nzuna KitemeToday, at age 15, Nzuna is thriving. At Mbondoni Primary School where she is currently in Standard Seven, this sweet girl is popular with both students and staff. Though behind in her studies because of her health problems, she remains determined to succeed so that one day she can become a doctor that heals children like her. And we have no doubt that with our support, Nzuna and the others infected will realize their dreams.

Without Twana Twitu’s support, Nzuna would have in all likelihood met her death. Though medical assistance is available through the nearby Government-run hospital or the Muthale Hospital, these facilities would not have provided Nzuna the kind of specialized care she required. And without our support, she would not have been able to meet the charges for such care.

Recognizing the special needs of those infected with HIV, Twana Twitu avails nutritional support that includes greengrams, milk and a highly nutritious flour. We additionally train our caregivers (mostly grandmothers) on the Home Based Care skills they need to ensure they both cope with and provide proper support to their infected family members.

Nzuna had gone from grave to great. a state of positive living. She has a good health and her counts are increasing. As the picture we show clearly illustrates, she is now thriving and living as any normal person does. On ARVs and a system that keeps a close eye on her, Nzuna has been and continues to be an inspiration to each of us. HIV/AIDS is not the end of the road. We can conquer it and with some sacrifice aid those who need a little strength from us.

Please support Twana Twitu so that in turn, we can reach and offer life-saving interventions to children infected with HIV.

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