This Wednesday at our HIV care clinic, two of my favorite patients, a set of fraternal twins showed up with their teenage mother and a 12 year old helper. Their mother is 18, about 4 feet 10 and extremely petite. When I arrived in Bundibugyo early last year, I met them for the first time, also at that clinic where their mother receives care, and they were both malnourised and underweight. The little girl especially, Nyakato (right), did not appear to be doing well. (There are a suprising number of twins born here it seems, but often both children don't make it.) I took a real liking to these kids and followed them with interest over the year. Their weights crept slowly upwards, but Nyakato always looked sickly beside her healthier brother, Nsingoma (left). Their mother was faithful in breastfeeding them, in addition to giving them the regular food supplements she received from our nutrition clinic - usually a corn-soymeal blend with oil and sugar - but mixed feeding (breast milk & solid food) from an HIV positive mother carries with it an increased risk of infection for the babies.
Since the twins were approaching the 18 month mark - they were born in October 2005 - I was eager to test them for HIV and have been praying that they would not be infected. Nsingoma screamed mercilessly during and after his finger stick test, but the temper tantrum he proceeded to have was worth it. (He subsequently fell asleep on his mother's back.) Both twins tested HIV negative! Hallelujah. This felt like such a gift, to have both children HIV free and doing well. Yes, they are currently thriving. But children can still get sick - from malaria or diahhreal diseases and go downhill quickly here - so they are not out of the woods, but to not have HIV as part of that mix for them is a real blessing.