Elizabeth Njeri

“I have learned it is good to laugh,” says Elizabeth Njeri, a widowed mother of four. “There are many challenges in life...but I am encouraged.”

Encouraged by the simple things in life, like reading her Bible and sharing time in fellowship with those who are closest to her.

After Elizabeth’s husband passed away of cancer in 2011, she moved to her current home in order to escape the unwanted advances of men who made her feel unsafe. And despite being diagnosed with HIV, she says today she finally feels at peace with her life.

“There are many challenges,” Elizabeth admits, “like getting enough food for my children and paying their school fees, but I have a small business selling porridge and chapatti, and I’m trying to do everything I can to support my family.”

When she needs encouragement, Elizabeth says she turns to Psalm 67, which declares God’s blessing on the people who are devoted to Him and praises Him for all His good works.

“That is my favorite Scripture,” she says. “And I hope my kids will learn about faith from me. I want them to take care of themselves. And more than anything I want them to fear God.” 

Helen Achieng

Helen was born into a family of ten children. During the years of her childhood, she lost her father and five of her siblings. Helen finished most of her schooling and married at the age of nineteen. The marriage was a constant struggle because Helen's mother-in-law did not approve of the relationship. Ultimately, Helen and her husband separated. 

"Life has to continue," Helen says. "And I started to work at a local kiosk." 

Later that year, she started dealing with a number of different ailments - she soon found out that she was HIV+. With the help of CARE for AIDS and close family members, she is still able to work and provide for her family. 

"Sometimes I worry, but I trod on because I have Christ with me. This is not the end." 

Mary Ndunge

At just thirty-eight years old, Mary Ndunge has committed herself to a life of celibacy. “I was married before, and we had five children,” she explains. “But my husband passed away during my last pregnancy. And when I found out it was because of HIV, I knew I had to get tested, too.”

So she did. And Mary learned that she, too, had been infected by the disease that claimed her husband. This was the defining moment when she decided she wasn’t going to take the risk of passing HIV onto anyone else. “It is important for me not to get into another relationship,” she says. “I don’t want to infect another person.”

At first, Mary admits that she wasn’t consistent with taking the medications that had been prescribed to her at the hospital where she received her diagnosis. But when she came to CARE for AIDS, she was taught how crucial they were in order for her to live a healthy life. And that has given her the hope she needs in order to look forward to the many years she has ahead as a mother. “For a long time I was troubled,” she says.

“But I learned how to ask for help. And that’s what I would encourage anyone who is living with this disease to do. Ask for help. Know your status. Take your medication as advised. And, most importantly, be resolved.”

Beatrice Wambui

Beatrice discovered she was HIV positive during a time in her life when she should have been able to celebrate – she was pregnant with her first child. Six months later, Beatrice lost her baby, and sadly, she has not been able to conceive again. Still, she knows that her diagnosis is not a death sentence but an opportunity to share her life with others.

“I am born again,” Beatrice says. “And ever since I joined the CARE for AIDS program, I have seen big changes in my life both spiritually and physically.” Like every client who participates in CARE for AIDS’ nine-month program, Beatrice receives counseling on a variety of health and spiritual issues, along with nutritional guidance. She also has the opportunity to learn new skills to help her earn a living for her family. “I can do things I couldn’t do before,” she says. “And now I have the Word of God, too. Before I was in the program, my life was not going well. I struggled to get food. I couldn’t work. But now I live a different life.” And even though it’s easy to get discouraged, Beatrice says she knows the solution to that problem. “I pray to God every day. And when I do this, I know I am putting my problems into the right hands.”

Virginia Njoke

At sixty-eight years of age, Virginia has lived a very long life. She was married for forty-five years and raised ten children. Diagnosed with HIV in 2011 following a ten-year separation from her husband who had transmitted the disease after engaging in several extramarital affairs, Virginia says she wasn’t sure she wanted to know about her illness.

But once she started experiencing symptoms, she realized she had to face the truth. At the time of her diagnosis, Virginia struggled to deal with the implications of relying on modern medicine to help her stay healthy, which was strictly against the rules of the religious sect in which she practiced her faith. But her doctor was insistent, so she entered the CARE for AIDS program. “I have been very encouraged, and I will keep coming back to help, because this program has given me so much both physically and spiritually.” Even after raising all of her children, Virginia still works, and her prayer each day is that God will continue to help her earn a living. “I am strong in faith, and I will live to be successful, because I take my medication in the right way.” When asked if she has any other advice for staying healthy, Virginia has a simple answer. “Yes,” she says, laughing. “Drink water. And drink milk.”

Charles Ogoya

“When my children grow up,” says Charles quietly, “I will ask them to forgive us for what has happened. I give my young son medicine in the morning."

"I can’t explain what is happening, but I am praying for God to help us continue our lives. When he is older, I have promised I will tell him.” When Charles and his wife were diagnosed with HIV, he helped his wife with her medication but refused to face his own diagnosis until her death. Unfortunately, their young son was also HIV positive.

“We buried her and a few months later, our boy was sick, too,” he says. “We went to the hospital, and it came back that he was also HIV positive. I said, ‘Help, please. I lost my wife. The child is also sick.’ The doctor told me not to worry, ‘Whatever comes, you have already been affected. Give your child this medicine so he can grow.’” A year later, Charles learned about CARE for AIDS. The program has helped Charles balance the needs of his son with his own treatment. He has learned the importance of diet, adherence to his medication, and skills to help him work and provide for his family. Despite the fact that Charles has remained very private about his diagnosis, he is still positive about the future. “I am not worried. I don’t think: ‘I will die; I can’t work; I won’t be able to go on.’ I just feel at ease … I support my children … the most important thing.”

Millicent Akoth

“I am holding onto the Word of God,” says Millicent.

“When things are going tough, I get on my knees and seek a way out.” Her mother died when Millicent was seven months old. Her relationships with her stepmothers were devastating. Her father tried time and time again to keep her in school, but eventually, she was forced to drop out.

“I got married in the year 2002. By 2010, I had six children. I started feeling sick. I tried going for treatment and nothing changed. When I decided to get tested for HIV, I was told to return with my husband so he could be tested, too. He turned out to be negative. He abandoned us. Now I am both the father and the mother.” To care for her children, Millicent began cooking and selling fish. The small business was successful until all her belongings were stolen. In the CARE for AIDS program, Millicent began to have hope for herself and her family. “Life is difficult, but I appreciate what I have been given. My prayer is that I can go back to business, and my children can go to school. When I go for my counseling, I leave with a lighter burden.”

Lucy Kimani

“Light, like mine, must come from God.”

Lucy lives in a slum called Kian-dutu just outside of Nairobi. She found she was HIV positive in 2008 and was fearful that death would soon follow. After she knew her status, Lucy felt her life was consumed by darkness. 

“When I discovered my status, it made me feel intimidated. It made me feel very small. All throughout Kenya at the time, it was being said that whoever had HIV must be dying soon.”

When Lucy found CARE for AIDS, though, her life changed dramatically. She started attending the program in her community to receive food and soon started attending Bible study with other members of the class. Eventually, Lucy accepted Christ and her life was once again filled with hope.

Shortly after joining the CARE for AIDS program, Lucy got a job with a local education program in her community. “Most of the children I work with are HIV positive. I focus on showing them the love of God and the joy which is found in Christ … it is the easiest way to make them feel healed, to make them feel whole.”

Lucy’s life is now filled with joy, which shows in her work. “I spread the truth to people, and that makes me joyful. It is my pride. I thank God for CARE for AIDS,” Lucy says, “for it has changed my life fully.”

Susan Wambura

Susan Wambura is one of the lucky ones.

At the time of her HIV diagnosis, she was also pregnant with her first child. As would be expected, Susan was flooded with fear about the health of her unborn child. Would the baby suffer? Would it also have to live with the virus?

Miraculously, the answer was no. In 2008, Susan gave birth to a healthy, happy baby.

“I had thought my life was finished,” she says of her pregnancy and diagnosis. “I understand now, after coming to the CARE for AIDS center, that if you take your medications as prescribed, you can be safe.”

And thanks to CARE for AIDS, hundreds of lives are being saved, just like Susan and her baby.

“When I came to the center, I met others like me,” she says. “And I see that life can be the same as it was [before HIV]. There are other diseases out there, and people live with them normally. HIV is the same.”

“Life is not that bad,” she continues. “And I have the strength now to keep on living.” 

Jacqueline Mueni

Jacqueline learned that she had contracted HIV just three short years ago. She had fallen ill and was taken to a local hospital to receive treatment. While she was there, the doctors decided she needed to be tested for the virus, and sadly, the diagnosis came back positive. 

"It was hard," she says, remembering that day. "And my husband was tested, too. But his results were negative." 

 

This is a unique challenge that many couples in Kenya face. Often, both the man and the woman are living with the disease but aren't aware of their status. Often one member of the couple is positive, but doesn't find out until after the couple has married, making it much more difficult to move forward in a healthy relationship. This is the challenge that Jacqueline and her husband faced in their marriage, but they never lost hope. 

"Your families might reject you," she says, "but this disease is not death. It doesn't have to be." 

 

Lilian Akinyi

Born into a Christian family with nine children, Lilian is no stranger to the concept of hard work. Growing up, their financial situation was touch because her parents could not find sustainable jobs. Lilian left school early to enter the workforce and married at 20. 

"I wanted to be a tailor," Lilian says. "My husband promised he would buy me a sewing machine." 

Lilian did work as a tailor to support their growing family. She and her husband had four children, but sadly, only two of them survived. 

After the Kenyan government declared HIV an epidemic, Lilian and her husband chose to be tested. Both were found to be positive, and later that year her husband passed away. 

Regardless of her struggles, Lilian has a positive outlook on life and death. "I am not afraid because I know the Bible says that when we pass away we are in the presence of Jesus." 

Lilian makes a living selling bajia, a type of potato she slices, breads, and deep fries. She spends her spare time at the CARE for AIDS center, which has provided her with medical care. advice on nutrition, and spiritual counseling. 

"I don't know what I would do without them. They visit us when we don't feel well. They encourage us. And I have faith that I can live longer this way." 

Millicent Akani

Millicent Akinyi comes from a very large family, the third-born child in a family of nine. She lived most of her childhood with her mother, who was a Christian and raised the family in church.

“My mother was [a believer],” she says, “but my father was not.”

Millicent attended primary school but was then forced to drop out because her parents could no longer afford to send her or her siblings. Although public school is free in Kenya, the cost of uniforms and books can often lead families to remove their children from the programs.

“After I left,” she says, “I started babysitting and working as a house girl in order to earn a living.”

Eventually, Millicent says she began to feel sick. Immediately, she went to get tested at a clinic and discovered she was HIV positive.

“I found out my status this year,” she says. “I had a lot of pain, but ever since I’ve been coming to the [CARE for AIDS] center, I’ve realized I can live for many more years. Maybe even fifty! It has given me the determination I need.”

When asked what she would like to do with her next fifty years, Millicent says proudly, “I would love to go to college and become a tailor.”

And perhaps she will. Her determination to live a happy, peaceful life despite her illness is what drives Millicent to look forward to the future. “Through the trials I’ve faced,” Millicent says, “I have hope now.”