Miriam is a 12-year-old girl who comes to the clinic all by
herself. She lost her mother and her father to HIV. Her
grandmother, with whom she lives, is too frail to accompany Miriam
on the journey to our remote clinic in Chulaimbo. Even though
she is very small for a 12-year-old, Miriam walks two hours to the
clinic each month. Carrying a woven basket with her boxes of
medicines, she walks for two hours to see the doctors and to get
On the days that Miriam walks to the clinic, she cannot go to
school. She tells me that she loves school; she loves history
and she loves reading. They do not have any books in her
house (although their precious goat does live in the house with
them), but at school she gets to read books.
Miriam's eyes sparkle when she talks about reading books. My
heart warms to a fellow reader.
After school, Miriam walks down to the river to fetch water for
her grandmother. She also helps her grandmother by collecting
wood for the fire that they use for cooking. She told me that
it usually takes her about an hour after school to gather water and
to gather wood. Then, she works for another hour to grind up their
corn and make ugali. On some days, it gets dark before Miriam
can complete all of her schoolwork, but they don't have a lantern
in her house for reading. On the days she does not get the
work done before the sun sets at 7:00pm, she gets up by 6:00am to
finish her work.
Miriam has never been told why she takes the medicines; she
doesn't know what is making her sick. I think she must know
on some level, but no one has ever explained it to her.
Looking at this smart girl, who loves history and loves reading and
already went through the loss of her parents both to HIV, I know we
need to talk to her about her sickness.
She walks for 4 hours for her medicines and no one has
told her why she must take them.
We're working to fix this for Miriam. We're trying to get a
study up and running to put counselors into the clinic who will
guide families through the process of talking to their children
about their HIV. We're going to be able to offer counseling for
Miriam and a support group where she can meet regularly with
adolescents just like her and share their stories.