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 more medicines.

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.

Posted at 14:59


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