what access means: Samuel

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I saw Samuel last month in one of AMPATH's HIV clinics in Kenya. Samuel's mother died two years ago, and his elderly grandmother now struggles to look after him. She tries hard, but there are too many days when the money she makes by selling charcoal does not stretch to provide more than one small meal for the day. When Samuel first came to our clinic a year ago, he was skinny and stunted, severely malnourished and sick. I remember wondering whether he would ever be able to catch up. He was immediately diagnosed with both HIV and TB, and over the past year, he has been treated for both. Samuel and his grandmother received food support through AMPATH's nutritional support program for the first six months that he was on treatment to help him catch up on his growth. He was also enrolled for extra follow-up through our Orphans and Vulnerable Children office. The family was assigned a specially trained community health worker to help make sure that Samuel could get to his monthly clinic appointments and see how he was doing with his medicines.

Samuel looked great last month. He kept peeking into my exam room, smiling and flirting with me and collecting stickers from the pockets of my white coat.  Happy, smiling Samuel was a perfect reminder about what an effective healthcare system can do. Samuel reminds me what access to healthcare means.

We are keeping children in Kenya alive with these medicines. By offering access to free antiretroviral medicines to treat HIV and access to a comprehensive HIV care program, we offer a lifeline to the 24,500+ children cared for in AMPATH's clinics. We are keenly aware that medicines are not enough. As Samuel's story demonstrates, much more holistic services are often needed to wrap around a family - to draw them into care, to keep them in care, and to provide the interventions that will really help them towards health. Access means that Samuel is alive and smiling and flirting today.

Posted at 15:25

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