Off to visit the clinic today for a briefing on the work the sisters are doing and what we are expected to do when we start our construction work.
It is probably fair to say that our party of British, North American and Australian liberal minded volunteers approached the prospect of getting an insight into the way the Catholic church is working with people with HIV with a degree of scepticism tinged with trepidation at the prospect of seeing people of all ages ravaged by the disease.
We were wrong on both counts.
The clinic is on the fringes of of the largest slum in Mombasa. thousands of people are crammed into makeshift accommodation on the side of a hill with no running water or sanitation.
The clinic itself is a calm oasis in the midst of the chaos. Well kept and tidy, the compound comprises of the clinic, a school and an FE college.
Clients are ‘recruited’ to attend the clinic by a group of community works who move around the slums seeking to identify those most at risk and those orphaned by the ravagers of the illness.
Their benchmarks, interestingly, are:
More people living with HIV = a good thing because we are keeping hem alive.
More people reporting that they have HIV = a bad thing because it is spreading.
To date they are managing to keep ahead of the game by getting positive results against both benchmarks.
Their key messages seem to be:
De-stigmatise HIV by talking about it and disclosing if you are infected.
Promoting testing at the clinic and at home with free simple tests.
Medicating those that test positive, providing free drugs and helping them to stay the course of treatment.
Counselling prior to testing, supporting those who test positive and encouraging them to attend couple counselling to face up to the practicalities of the diagnosis.
Working with HIV infected children, encouraging them to take medication and supporting parents, if they are still alive, as they disclose to the children that they are infected.
Encouraging the use use of condoms to prevent further infection.
The budget for running the clinic for year is around 150k They have just been advised of a 20% budget cut and told that they must deal with more clients.
Just in case this all sounds a bit serious, we had a great afternoon at the clinic playing and singing with a group of 4-6 year olds that were blissfully unaware of why they come here each week.