Sickly HIV-born baby now in higher institution
Amina Mohammed's(not her real name) warm smile and soft laughter is one that reveals a cheerful, happy person. At 21, she is in the College of Art, Science and Remedial Studies in Kano State and hopes to be matriculated into Northwestern University, also in Kano state to study English Language. For her, the future is bright and full of opportunities, she is preparing to get married in some months and wants to own a clothing business and deal in native wrappers and children's wears after graduation.
However, it has not been all bright and sunny for her. She was born with HIV and for many years was a sickly child who was in and out of the hospital surviving with the determination of her grandmother who took care of her. She had lost her father at age 2 and her mother at 5 years old.
Then, anti-retroviral medications were not easily accessible as it is now with the intervention of the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which provides funding for the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When IHVN began collaborating with Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) to provide treatment and care for people living with HIV in 2005, Amina was one of the first who benefitted from the program. Her family did not need to buy the drugs anymore as they were provided without cost.
IHVN Program Officer Care and Support, MaimunaSaad, recalled that Amina was in the hospital many times. "The adherence team noticed her very sickly nature. Even when she was started on treatment, she was not taking her drugs as she ought to and was already developing resistance to the drugs been given," she said. Amina said that taking her drugs was an uphill task for her for a very long time. "I misbehaved. I was on syrup and we used to use syringe to measure the quantity of drugs. I used to go and hide somewhere and pretend as if I'm measuring the drugs but it was air and then, I will not take it," she said. With IHVN and the hospital's support, she overcame this challenge after a lot of counseling.
In fact, it was at AKTH that she was told of her HIV positive status when she was 16 years. Although IHVN and hospital staff had counseled her grandmother severally about disclosing to Amina, they were the ones who disclosed Amina's HIV status to herwhen her grandmother could not muster the courage to tell her. They also provided counseling all the way till she became determined to adhere to treatment and were also on-hand to help out when Amina was depressed upon knowing her HIV status. "A teacher in school had told us that all people with HIV are liable to die young. When I was told that I had HIV, I almost killed myself with a knife in the bathroom but my grandmother came to stop me," she said. The next day, her grandmother was in the hospital with her. "At the hospital, they told me that I can live long when I take my drugs religiously," Amina said.
Adhering to her drugs was not the only challenge she faced. Many times, she could not have the desired sleep-overs at her cousin's place because her grandmother feared that they would not be careful enough to supervise her in taking her medications. All that is now in the past. In the hospital and IHVN, she has found nurses and doctors who have acted like parents to her. She said the she can even tell secrets to the ones that she has become close to.
AKTH Clinic Manager, Mrs. Amina Mude, who was her Pediatric nurse noted that Amina's health gives her and the entire team a sense of fulfillment. "She is 99% healthy and is adhering to her drugs," she said. She also urged caregivers of HIV positive children to keep bringing them to the hospital for their appointments and even whenever they fall ill even before the fixed date.
Mrs. Saad is also happy when she sees Amina. "Since she knew her status and became responsible in taking her treatment, she has been on medications and has grown to be a fine young lady. She is fashionable and always dresses well. Any time I meet her on the road, she is always happy," Mrs. Saad stated.
Amina looks forward to when a cure for HIV is found and also to having her own children. "I feel great," she said.