When Kevin fell ill with HIV, his father took him to the hospital instead of shunning him. His father's love, together with the help of antiretroviral medications, saved his life. Now, Kevin helps other families cope with the disease, giving them the support that his father once gave him.
Challenge: Cote d'Ivoire has the highest HIV infection rate in Western Africa. And social stigma prevents thousands from being tested and treated.
Solution: Support local programs that provide free screening and medicines.
Can they also transform lives?
When you bring a child into the world, the child must bury his father. It's not the father who buries the child. It's up to me to help him until the day I die, so he can bury me.
The night I thought my son was going to die, he was so sick he couldn't get up. I picked him up, and I carried him from the village. A trucker, thank God, came by, and I begged him to take us to the hospital. He didn't want to do it, so I begged him, and said, "My son is dying." Kevin didn't see me, but I cried. But I didn't let him know. My son never knew I cried.
Ministere de la Sante et de l'Hygiene Publique et Soeurs de la Charite de Sainte Anne; Centre de Sante Urbain, N.D.A. [Ministries of Health and Public Hygiene and Sisters of the Charity of Saint Anne; Urban Health Center, NDA]
SISTER FELICITY [Nurse, NDA Clinic, Dimbokro]
The first time Kevin came to the clinic, he was critical. He could barely talk.
Vous etes infecte par le VIH? Les medicaments ARV ameliorent votre sante et c'est GRATUIT. [Are you infected with HIV? ARV medications improve your health and it's FREE.]
I knew it could be HIV. I asked that they give him the test. I wanted to know.
SISTER PAULINE [Director, NDA Clinic, Dimbokro]
Most of the time, parents in this situation distance themselves, blame their child who is suffering, accuse them.
The nun called me and told me, "Your son has HIV." How could I be ashamed of my son? If my son had to die, he would know that he had a father who loved him.
When I started following the treatment, I began to regain my health. I began to feel well.
It's the ARVs, the antiretrovirals are the reason Kevin is here today. He keeps going, and he follows through.
If my father had rejected me, I would not be here.
DR. JOSEPH ESSOMBO [Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation]
When Kevin overcame the pain related to his HIV infection, he decided to serve other people facing the same challenges.
I decided to do this work at the clinic because I told myself that there are other families that perhaps don't have the same father I did. I decided that I, too, would be at their service to give them the support that they need.
DR. JOSEPH ESSOMBO
My hope is that Kevin will be strong enough, Kevin will live long enough, to teach other people how to deal with the HIV/AIDS disease, how to cope in situations where there is a high level of stigma, to teach us that our program should not only be designed to provide drugs, but empower people, so that they can better serve the community.
Living Proof: Real Lives. Real Progress.
At the start of this decade, 2,000 people received treatment for HIV in Cote d'Ivoire. Now, over 50,000 are in treatment.
Living Proof: Real Lives. Real Progress. www.one.org/livingproof