In-depth: The New face of TB: Drug resistance and HIV

KENYA: "Without nutrition, drugs are useless in our bodies"

Photo: Richard Etienne/IRIN
When you are bedridden, your whole world seems to fall apart
Nairobi, 22 March 2007 (PlusNews) - John Omondi [not his real name] is a 49-year-old father of five living in Laini Saba, one of 14 villages that make up the sprawling Kibera slum in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Omondi discovered about one year ago that he was infected with both HIV and tuberculosis.

"My problems began when I got sick and was bedridden for a long time due to night sweats, continuous coughs and other infections. By then I was living in Kawangware [another low-income Nairobi neighbourhood] in a decent house where I was paying 4,500 shillings a month (US $65).

When you are bedridden, your whole world seems to fall apart. When you live in someone's house, the next day they break down your door demanding for rent; even if you are sick they do not care.

My strange ailment made me lose my job as a civil servant; my employers said I had absconded from work. It was then that I moved to Kibera, where I live in a one room semi-permanent house which has no water or electricity. I pay 1,500 shillings ($22) for it.

In Kibera, I decided to visit the AMREF [African Medical and Research Foundation, an international health NGO] clinic about my chest condition. I was tested for TB through a sputum test which turned out negative, yet the bouts of coughing persisted.

It was then that I was referred to the Kenya Medical Research Institute laboratory for an X-ray test; this revealed that I had TB. I was also advised to be tested for HIV; I found out my TB and HIV status concurrently.

I immediately started on my TB treatment, taking three tablets per day for the first two months then two tablets per day for the next six months.

This was a very difficult period for me because I started experiencing swellings on my body as a side-effect of the TB medication. Also, if I stayed for too long without food, I would start experiencing some sharp pains in my body and feel like vomiting.

This went on for the eight months I was under medication. After my condition stabilised in October 2006, I started taking ARVs [life-prolonging antiretroviral medication]

However, the food problem keeps recurring. Food is a major problem in the slums; sometimes you eat, sometimes you don't. Food shortage affects the entire community. For An HIV-positive person the situation is even worse, people go as far as selling their drugs to buy food.

Without nutrition, drugs are useless in our bodies.

There are many problems in the slums, sometimes you go to the clinic to collect your medicine only to find all the things in your house stolen. Sometimes you are sick yet you still have to buy water, as we do not have running water.

However, I am grateful for the free ARV and TB drugs, I am no longer bedridden; I am now healthier. Currently, I am depending on my wife, who is also living with HIV. Her immunity is still high so she is not yet on ARVs. She washes people's clothes to supplement the income. She has been very supportive of me."


This report is part of a PlusNews In-depth: 'The New face of TB: Drug Resistance and HIV'
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