With Treatment, A Father’s Life is Renewed after HIV and TB Diagnosis
Adunga knew his wife was HIV-positive, but thought he was immune because of his blood type. His health deteriorated to the brink of death, almost leaving his children fatherless. Then Project HOPE stepped in.
Adunga Kifle served as a soldier in the Ethiopian army for 13 years, trained for combat, ready for battle. But nothing could prepare him for the fight of his life as he faced the concurrent diagnoses of HIV and TB.
“I was almost dead,” says Adunga. “I couldn’t eat anything. I couldn’t even drink water.”
Although Ethiopia has made significant strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS, continued momentum and new approaches are needed if AIDS is to be eliminated. Project HOPE is working in communities to expand access to HIV education, prevention, care and treatment services.
The stigma of discordance
When Adunga, now 65, married Alemnesh, 35, he didn’t know she was HIV-positive. She was too ashamed to tell him and hid the medicine she was taking to combat the deadly disease. Eventually she gathered the courage and admitted she was infected with HIV and was taking ART – antiretroviral treatment. Thankfully, Adunga’s subsequent test result was negative, even after years of unprotected sex with Alemnesh. He was tested again and again, every six months, with the results still negative.
Couples in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other partner is HIV-negative are referred to as “discordant.” Most discordant couples understand the importance of using protection during sex. But a misinformed health worker told Adunga that his blood type – O – caused his body to reject HIV. So Adunga, feeling somewhat invincible, stopped getting tested – and didn’t use protection.
And then one day he got sick. Really sick. He could barely move; his body was shutting down. He had been treated for TB previously, but it was clear that not only had the TB returned, but Adunga had symptoms of HIV as well.
That’s when Project HOPE community engagement facilitator Elene stepped in. She told Alemnesh about the USAID Community HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment (CHCT) program implemented by Project HOPE Ethiopia. Elene came to their home and after some pre-test counseling, she tested Adunga, who was found to be HIV- positive.
Post-test counseling followed and he was referred to a nearby health facility for care and treatment. Elene also provided education about HIV transmission. Adunga is now on ART and adheres to it successfully. He is also enrolled in a CHCT care and support program.
“She’s my everything.”
Six months later, Adunga is well and working again – not as a soldier, but as a rope maker. He also has regained the strength to help Alemnesh take care of their two young children.
His indebtedness to the health worker who intervened shows as his tough, weathered face softens and his eyes well with tears. “If I hadn’t met Elene, I wouldn’t be here today,” he says. “She’s my lifesaver. She’s my mother; she’s my father; she’s my everything.
“I was giving up before I met Project HOPE. Now that I have met them, I know I can live. Because of them, I am here today.”
Thanks to programs like this one, Adunga and many other patients like him are getting a new lease on life by receiving better access to HIV education, prevention, care and treatment services. The objectives and interventions of this five-year USAID program are designed to impact UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals.
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