On Friday afternoon, I returned from a 3 day meeting hosted by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) in Mbarara, to learn that Kyamanuwa, the HIV infected boy I wrote about last week had lost his fight for life. I was deeply saddened. The last time I saw him, he was extremely thin and frail, but I was praying and hoping that his tiny body would begin to respond to the HIV drugs (antiretrovials) he'd been given. It was not to be. The following day on Saturday, Jennifer and I rode our bikes out to visit his family, armed with the name of his village and the names of both of his parents. After a few misguided sets of directions from well-meaning folks we met on the way who didn't really know the family, we located the house, and found both of his parents and his extended family grieving. The burial had been that morning and there were no more tears visible, but the sense of sorrow and heaviness was palpable. Like him, Kyamanuwa's mother has HIV. His father's HIV status is unknown because he's not yet come to be tested. Kyamanuwa is the second child his mother has lost. Only one more, a 6 year old, is still alive. I don't know if either of this child's parents will live long enough to see their child grow up. I also don't know if this child will even survive its childhood. But what I do know is that I have returned from the EGPAF meeting energized and encouraged to train our staff to implement a more complex drug regimen for HIV infected pregnant mothers to prevent transmission to their babies. It will be much more challenging for both staff, mothers, and babies because it means pregnant HIV positive women will have to start taking preventive drugs as early as 28 weeks into their pregnancies - until they deliver - and their newborn babies will have to take these drugs for a week after they are born instead of just a single pill for mother and single dose of syrup for the baby. BUT, if this can happen, the chance of having a baby that is HIV infected is reduced from 30% to just 2%.
Could this more complicated regimen have saved Kyamanuwa from becoming HIV infected? Only God knows the answer to that, but we can be confident that we will see Kyamanuwa again one day - in heaven. My prayer, as Jennifer prayed when we were there, is that his mother can share in this hope as well.