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Protect HIV+ children from opportunistic infections

ID:
4266

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Our goal
To be prepared for the necessary emergency care funds to save four or more HIV + children from opportunistic infections.
The Challenge

The Initial Need:

            The doors of Nyumbani were opened to 3 abandoned children in Nairobi, Kenya in September 1992.  Nyumbani was founded because of a unique need: the care of HIV positive orphans and abandoned infants.  In the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, babies were being infected through vertical transmission (mother to baby) at an alarming rate.  Mothers abandoned their babies for different reasons: some were too sick with AIDS to care properly for their babies, or, because the baby tested positive for HIV, they abandoned the child believing he or she will not live.  To make matters worse, the public hospitals did not have enough resources to care for these babies; most died within a few months from neglect due to the pervasive stigma of HIV.

            Nyumbani represents an effort to remedy this situation.  The medical reality was that not all infants born to AIDS-infected mothers actually carried the virus themselves.  Some infants tested positive only because they carried their mothers’ antibodies.  Nyumbani provided the means by which these infants were loved and cared for until they were old enough to have their true HIV status assessed.  One out of every three children eventually converted to a negative status and were placed back into the communities with other family members, or were adopted.  The children who were truly infected remained at Nyumbani and were given the best nutritional, medical, and psychological care for the rest of the days that would be theirs.

            Today, Nyumbani Home cares for 130 HIV+ children, ranging in age from one to 25 years.  It is our great joy to witness each year more and more getting their educations and reaching the stage of self-reliance, a new vision for Nyumbani since the availability of anti-retroviral medicines.

The Growth:

The community outreach program, named Lea Toto, was offered as an extension of the children's home beginning in 1998.  This program helps reduce the spread of the HIV virus by providing awareness, health education, and counseling services to members of the community.  Lea Toto operates in 8 clinics in the resource-limited communities in Nairobi.  Lea Toto continues to enroll approximately 100 children each month, bringing the cumulative number of children served to almost 10,000 since inception.  Currently, there are over 3,200 active clients with the overall numbers in school increasing.  Sadly, given the difficult conditions in which Lea Toto children live and the stigma which impedes early referral to our program, some pass on each month, mainly those in the early months of life.  However, with access to Prevention of Transmission from Mother to Child services, an increasing number of newborns are now testing negative for HIV.  To date, we have discharged over 1,600 children who retest negative after having cared for them for the critical first 18 months of their lives.

The Emerging Problem:

Most of the orphans who are newly admitted to the children's home today have a very low immune system (high viral load and low CD4 count) and are prone to the most opportunistic infections.  These infections are called opportunistic because they take advantage of the child's weakened immune system and can cause serious health threats.  

Every year, children with HIV are exposed to various other viruses, bacteria and fungi as they go to school and live their lives.  The majority of the children that Nyumbani cares for live in the slum areas surrounding Nairobi, where the living conditions are extremely poor and there is no sanitation or safe water to drink.  Beyond the anti-retroviral medicines these children take for HIV, they are also more likely to require antibiotics and/or antifungal medicines for the various opportunistic infections they acquire.  Common illnesses include: pneumonia, meningitis, TB peritonitis, anemia, and malaria. Unfortunately, sometimes these diseases can also result in a hospital visit until their health can be stabilized. 

The Cost & How to Help:

In 2015, there were 10 cases that required hospital stays, averaging approximately $1,000 per visit.  

With your donations we can raise the funds to pay for the additional children who will need hospital visits to stabilize their health in 2016 and beyond.  

The Story of John:

This is the story of John, a resident of the children's home who had a subdural hematoma.  John's opportunistic infection is not common, but it is a shining example of incredible bravery from the children of Nyumbani and wonderful compassion and generosity from our donors.

Written by a US volunteer:

Five year old John had been having terrible headaches. A CAT scan at a local hospital showed nothing, so he was taken home.  However, he was readmitted as the headaches grew more severe.  An MRI showed that the skull was full of blood and John needed surgery ASAP. 

Our prayers were answered and the surgery went well. John was up to his old impish self the next morning. We brought treats and balloons for the other 5 residents and their families, who were sharing the same hospital room with John. 

Upon discharge, John did well for several weeks back at Nyumbani, though he had swelling in his head.  Blood started to fill his brain again, and by late-June, he was back in the hospital.  The doctor aspirated the blood and put in a drain.  John made it through that round of surgery and several quieter weeks.  However, by late July, he was back in the hospital after blood began seeping from his head, and he was scheduled for more surgery.

He had to remain in the hospital for several days, but was ultimately discharged.  Although that particular hospital stay was as horrible as the others, one good thing happened.  John was reunited with his 15 year old brother, Raphael! John had not seen Raphael for an entire year.   Raphael had taken care of John for the four years before John was admitted to Nyumbani.  Their mom died when John was just a baby.  Raphael was so happy to see John! John gradually remembered his older brother.  It was a wonderful reunion, and we were very glad we were able to make it happen.

John will need further surgery down the road to remove the shunt from his brain.  Still, John has been more fortunate than many Kenyan children born with HIV.  Luckily for him, he is at Nyumbani where we have generous donors who helped us with the finances needed to provide for his special case.

Please click to join us.  Become part of this project's success . . . and help other children like John.  We promise to update you on how you helped make a difference in people's lives!

 

 

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Our milestones
  • Michael

  • Nicole

  • Ali

  • Svenja

  • Erin

  • Ben

  • John

  • Lawrence

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