by Gigi Tysinger
Sarah and I make our way up the rutted road and through its narrow alleys to arrive at Esther’s house – a patient at the Holy Family Center. Esther is a single mother raising three daughters, the youngest of whom is just 6 weeks old. Since the mother is HIV positive, both she and the baby are being treated with antiviral medication; the middle daughter is also positive and in treatment. All three family members receive antivirals that have been provided by the Holy Family Center, and Sarah, a counselor there, brings me along as she checks on how they are doing. She understands many of the challenges they face – food for one is hard to come by. The mother is not working and the oldest girl can only bring in enough to assist with purchasing water. There is no running water or electricity, and a single curtain separates the sleeping area from the cooking and living space. We bring packages of dried beans, flour, and a special millet that has been fortified for nutritional value. For the antivirals to be effective, patients must take them exactly twelve hours apart every day. So Sarah asks about the timing of the medications and we count the pills to make sure that Esther and her children are taking them correctly. Mostly we sit together. Sarah offers conversation, encouragement and kindness. Since I don’t speak the language, I am only good for holding the baby, and yet that seems to be enough. Esther is grateful for our presence, and we depart among promises for Sarah’s next visit and thanksgiving for the day.