Lindani*, a little girl, was brought to us by her mother. She had the "usual" symptoms, like diarrhoea and vomiting. The little girl does not look well and is quite weak. In addition, her skin is broken in several places.
These are the typical signs of AIDS. Yes, she and her mother have AIDS. Since her mother is still working and she has no one to look after her, she wants Lindani to go to a children's home when she is better. Well, for the time being she stays here in the hospice. A few months later, the mother has to start antiretroviral (=ARV) treatment, as her blood values are accordingly. Lindani is also getting better and better and so her mum brings her back home before Christmas.
But she brings Lindani back to us after only a few days. With the same symptoms as the first time. She recognises us again and after some initial crying when her mum leaves, she quickly calms down. We try to get her skin rash and diarrhoea under control again, which succeeds after a while. And then she is already doing so well again that we learn to walk and eat by ourselves and so we both have a lot of fun together. Sometimes, however, she gets so exhausted that she just falls asleep, no matter where she is and what is happening around her.
But there are also constant ups and downs in her condition. When she got worse again and didn't want to eat and drink properly, we took her to the hospital in Stanger. The doctors took blood, also to see how high her CD4 helper cell count is. If they are below 200/mm3, they have to start treatment with ARVs. Thankfully, they were still way too high, so Lindani didn't have to be put on ARVs yet. However, she was to stay there for now and we took her to the paediatric ward. I took off her clothes and she got a little white hospital gown. Sitting there in her little bed with this white shirt, she looked like a little angel. And it almost broke my heart to leave this little angel there and not take her back.
In the meantime she has grown and I see her when her mummy comes for her regular check-up, because she brings Lindani with her then. And both of us are always happy when we see each other. These regular check-ups are very important for patients who are on the ARV programme. This way the doctor can see if the medication is tolerated or if there are any other problems. Lindani's blood levels are still so high that she doesn't need ARVs yet. But her blood is also checked regularly and if the values make it necessary, she will also be treated with ARVs and have a chance to live a long and relatively normal life despite AIDS.
* Lindani (Zulu for "Wait!) is not her real name, but her mother gave her explicit permission to tell her story and to use her photos here.