For International Women's Day...
If you want to stand for women and girls around the world, you
have to think about HIV. You have to consider the ways that HIV
tries to knock women down. HIV is the leading cause of death and
disease in women ages 15 to 44 in low & middle-income
countries. Many, many young women die from the complications of
pregnancy and giving birth around the world, but HIV snatches the
most lives. This damn virus.
On International Women's Day, let me draw your attention
to Lucy. I invite you to stand for Lucy.
Two weeks ago, Lucy peeked into my office within the AMPATH
pediatric HIV clinic with two pieces of paper in her hand and a
special light in her eyes. She had just seen one of our Kenyan
clinical officers, and the clinical officer had sent her my
It is very rare that a patient is sent to me because of good
news. Usually, they get referred to me when there are
There was a time about a year ago when I was seeing Lucy once a
week because she was very sick with a complication of her HIV
infection. We switched around her medicines, we gave her money for
the bus ride to clinic once a week, we hoped… Thankfully, Lucy made
it through those months of sickness. She is 14 now -- healthy and
happy and stable on her HIV medicines.
Lucy is not defined by her virus. The light in her eyes comes
from her other achievements. She had brought with her to clinic a
copy of her grades for the previous semester, and she had reason to
be proud - a row of perfect As in every subject. A row of perfect
As from a school where anything above a B is a major
accomplishment. Lucy was shining.
Lucy's other paper made me awfully happy too - a lab slip where
the numbers indicated that there was no virus to be found in her
bloodstream and that her immune system has the cells it needs to
protect her from infections. My smile matched hers.
There are plenty of lousy things we could think of on this
International Women's Day - so many women and girls dying, being
infected, being abused, being deprived of opportunity -- but let's
think about shining Lucy.