Each area has a government official called a Diwani. I called the Diwani Michael this afternoon at the beginning of our walk to see if he had completed the surveys I had been trying to collect for our research of Unga. He said he had not, but encouraged us to stop by his home anyhow and meet his wife.
In other conversations with Michael and with Mary (the pastors wife of the church we have been doing a lot with) I had learned that Micheals wife had been doing a lot of work with AIDS victims. So of course, since we were invited, we stopped and visited with her. I talked to her a little bit and let her know how I knew her husband and where she lived. She warmly greeted us, and shared some of what has been going on in the community. I mentioned to her that I would one day like to go with her when she does her visits. She said I was welcome anytime. (Sweet!) She then told us about Amini. Amini has AIDS and is not doing well at all. Today she had gone to visit Amini and determined that she really needed to go to the hospital. She said it was because the family was worried about costs and couldn't transport her. Knowing the transportation costs were minimal and I could provide it myself, I offered to help. She invited us to go visit with Amini and her family.
Upon entering, it was obvious that Amini had AIDS. She had the skeleton body, she was in tears from her pain, there were sores on her body, she was dying. It was obvious that if she didn't get any care, it wasn't going to be long before she was gone. Mama Diwani (Michaels wife) informed them that we were her friends (Amber was with me today) and that we had offered to help transport Amini to the hospital. Amini wept more and more. These were tears of gratitude. Her husband though was concerned, her father (they were living with her parents) did not think she needed to go to the hospital. He was the head of the household, and can't go against their wishes. Mama Diwani pleaded with them some more. She then plead her case with Amini's mom who was present. Amini's mom stuck to her guns and said they needed to wait for the father to return to let him decide. It was a gut wrenching afternoon.
The thing is, Amini, who is the patient, had no voice in whether or not she went. She was in tears pleading with us, but culturally, it wasn't her decision to make at this point. As I listened I realized that it came down to finances. Her illness was causing undo financial burden to the family. Daddy was fed up and didn't have any more money. They also didn't have anyone to take care of her younger sister, although they live in a community no one would do it. The interesting thing is that Mama Diwani had found a Doc who would treat her without cost, but it still didn't help. It made me realize just how complex the stigma is surrounding HIV/AIDS patients in Africa. It is sickening.
A friend of mine, Lisa, who is serving in Arusha with her family, also wrote about AIDS recently. Check her stories out.
Pray for Amini. Pray also for Amber and I. It was a shocking reality to the disease that kills millions. I don't think I will ever forget her frail body on the bed, writhing in pain, or the tears in her eyes or the desperation in her voice. Pray for peace for Amini. (whose name also means peace)