One Woman, One Community, Many Gains

Jemima, a woman living with HIV in Kenya

Jemima is a woman living with HIV in rural western Kenya. That, alone, does not make her unique. After all, rates of HIV in that region are among the highest in the world. Even so, Jemima set aside worries about her own infection and went to work. She founded a group in her community that offers emotional support and small loans to families touched by HIV.

But then Jemima’s own HIV grew worse. A local volunteer found Jemima at home. She had diarrhea and had wasted to 77 pounds. Jemima was bedridden, and weak with oral thrush and skin infections. The volunteer quickly brought Jemima, her husband, and her sick grandchild to a U.S. government-supported health clinic.

There they received a “Basic Care Package” to treat their symptoms and to prevent further illness. CDC Global AIDS Program public health researchers in Uganda developed the basic care package and through the support of Federal partners, have been able to evaluate and expand the offering. It’s a bundle of low-cost health interventions that have been documented to make a real difference in the health of those living with HIV. The package can prevent the most debilitating complications among people living with the infection. Many of these infections start by using contaminated water.

Part of the Basic Care Package is a Safe Water System that has been documented to reduce diarrhea among persons with HIV by up to a third, at an affordable cost of $10 per family per year. The package includes other drugs that further reduce the unpleasant and dangerous complication by another third for about the same price as a single movie ticket in the U.S.

After receiving her Basic Care Package, Jemima bounced back dramatically and returned to promoting health interventions in her community. She sells health products to help support the eight sick and orphaned children she has adopted. Jemima remains a fervent advocate for the U.S. government-supported clinic, having referred more than 100 HIV-infected men, women, and children to receive care at the facility.

In Jemima, our Global Health Initiative saved not only a life, but a community treasure.