Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Dorothy is dead. Age: 21
Cause of death: AIDS. Poverty. Lack of Education. Single motherhood.
The Kwejuna Project, our Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV Project sponsored by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, began testing pregnant women attending prenatal clinics in April, 2004. Dorothy tested positive in the month following our project start. As with most of the other 500 women who have tested positive since our project began, she came into the prenatal clinic completely unaware of the possibility that her life would be turned upside down with the news of a positive HIV test. Pregnant at 19 years of age is not unusual in Uganda, but the father was “not around”—symptomatic of the very behavior that brought HIV into their relationship. Like 90% of women in Uganda who unexpectedly receive this diagnosis in the course of routine prenatal care, she kept the information to herself. Fear of being “sent away” by her family, Dorothy dealt with the anger, frustration, denial, and fear … alone.
Despite her anger, though, Dorothy kept returning to a support group for HIV+ women led by Pat Abbott where she was fed, befriended, touched, heard, and encouraged with the good news of God’s love for her. She kept people at a distance, but she kept coming back. Most of the time. Lack of education, chaos at home, weakness—they all contributed to her absences from the support group and from the anti-retroviral drug clinic. Many blamed her for her lack of compliance to the drug regimen, but the challenges were beyond her resources. Her son born in July, 2004 contracted HIV infection from her. His needs drained the little energy did have. Over the course of two years her weight dwindled to 62 pounds, considerably less than an average ten year old child.
Dorothy’s life was brief, unimaginably confusing, complicated, painful. However, her angry heart showed signs of softening over the last two years. There were glimmers of hope.
Dorothy died last week at home—with her mother and son.
I hope to see her in heaven—restored, healed, reconciled, whole.
(the pix: Dorothy April 2005; Dorothy July, 2006)