Anita* ran up the path to the La Foi Child Development Center, her back bent under the weight of her child. Compassion staff rushed toward the mother as she held her son’s limp body, begging for help.
“I was in the office when Anita arrived with her child on her back,” says Christophe, a Compassion social worker. “I could only remember Anita weeping and calling God for help.”
As the Compassion staff rushed 6-year-old Emmanuel to the clinic, Anita was nearly paralyzed by fear. Emmanuel was her only living child, her precious boy. She had already buried two other children and couldn’t bear the thought of also losing her son.
“I knew at that time that what happened to his brothers would happen to him, too,” says Anita. “My distress was so great. He was my only child after the death of his brothers.”
A Promise of Support
Doctors treated Emmanuel, stabilizing him and running a battery of tests. But it only took one test result to give them the answer to the boy’s failing health. Emmanuel was HIV-positive.
Compassion staff knew that Anita and her husband, David, needed to be tested for HIV as well. But in a community where AIDS is seen as both a social stigma and a death sentence, convincing the family to go for testing would prove to be difficult.
“This battle was not easy because Anita told us she would kill herself if the screening revealed that she and her husband were infected,” says Christophe. For weeks Compassion staff counseled the family, helping them understand that Compassion, through its AIDS Initiative, would support the family no matter the outcome. Finally, Anita and David were tested, and discovered that they, too, were HIV-positive.
“It was then that I knew what killed my two children,” says Anita. And that knowledge allowed for healing to begin in the grieving mother’s heart.
“We would have not been alive today.”
Emmanuel, Anita and David began antiretroviral therapy, but saw little results early on. After consulting with the Compassion health workers, they discovered their diet was not giving them the strength they needed to fight the disease. Compassion immediately began providing extra food supplies for the family.
“Emmanuel and his parents are one of our HIV food beneficiaries,” says Dodji Konvi, the center Director. “A budget of U.S.$50 is allocated to the family every month. When somebody falls sick, we do everything to pay the bill. We often buy medicine for them and we help them do some checkups.”
Gradually, the family’s health improved. Emmanuel, now 8, is a healthy, active boy who likes to play with his friends at the center. While he remembers being sick, and even the death of his two brothers, it is his parents who fully understand the gift they have been given through your support of Compassion’s AIDS Initiative.
“When they revealed to us that we are HIV-positive, I already saw the end of our lives,” says David. “If my family had not met the project, we would have not been alive today. The project has brought us hope and life. I really thank God.”
*All names changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.