Paul, a 9 year old boy born with HIV got what he needed from his visit at the Coptic Hospital’s Hopes clinic. It took all day and of us (including Alice Litton RN, Hellen Barsosio a Kenyan physician who is interning with HEART) being patient, listening well and advocating. The staff is great, but they are limited in funds. Much of the funding that they do have is from the US.
This is what Paul got by the end of the day which he would not have had without our asking:
- An HIV viral load test
- ringworm medication
- deworming medication
- Supplemental high nutrient food mix
- A letter from the doctor to an orthopedic surgeon for a referral
- Follow-up appointment for both mom and son on same day, so only one trip was necessary.
It was time for his regularly scheduled Nutrition visit so as soon as the vitals were taken we went to the Nutritionist. It took Katherine asking what his BMI was to start the conversation about his need for additional nourishment. Ultimately, his mom PK, carried home a large bag of Insta for him which will last a month. When underweight and malnourished, the immune system is not healthy and he is at risk for infection and disease.
When the HIV virus level is high in the body, the metabolism increases. People living with HIV but have no symptoms generally have a metabolism 10% higher than non-infected people. This goes up to 30 or 35% when one is symptomatic or have a very high viral load. Paul’s CD4 (a type of white blood cell) level has been decreasing in the last year. from around 800 to 250. Attaining a viral load count was necessary for the doctor to have for making a decision about a possible medication change. These tests are not funded but Alice stepped up and said she would pay for the $45 test. The ramifications of Paul getting this test might mean the difference of him losing weight, developing infections, having problems in many of his body tissues or even living just a few more years to having a chance for a full life.
Hellen advocated for a personal letter from the doctor so that Paul could get into an orthopedic surgeon. He has a limp and no one has yet been able to help him.
Katherine pointed out to Alice the ringworm on Paul’s head and Alice asked the doctor if he could have a prescription for it. He did, and also gave a deworming prescription. Most Kenyan children have worms.