thanks to the RPP-HIV positive project, women like grace regain hope: now they want to see their kids grow and are opening new businesses
By Marie L'Hermine
December 11, 2017 — Grace is a beneficiary woman for the Reaching Priority Populations with HIV Services (RPP-HIV Project). Her story is one of the many we heard in the country on our field visit in November to the project that AVSI-USA, in partnership with Jhpiego and funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implements. The goal is to improve the health status of priority populations through increasing access to quality HIV testing, age-appropriate counseling, enrollment in antiretroviral (ARV) services and follow-up, including adherence support.
Grace's husband died two years ago. After his death, she saw herself and her eight children living on the street because they were not allowed to stay in the husband’s family house. Struggling to survive, Grace decided to migrate to Daloa, the bigger city of the area and move into a small home close to her family. The relationship with her mom was tense and brought more difficulties. Soon, Grace started feeling really ill – tired and unable to do much. She was HIV positive, the same illness that killed her husband but of which everyone was unaware of at the time.
Mathilde, a social worker with VIF (Vivre, Integré, Fraternité), a local NGO in Daloa that supports and bring services to women and their families, started supporting and following Grace by giving her advice, visiting her often and making sure she started taking her medicine. This was difficult because Grace felt alone and did not want to live. Yet, through the companionship and support Mathilde offers her, Grace everyday becomes more and more eager to survive.
“Seeing my children grow and being able to attend school empowers me and make me want to live and be there for them,” says Grace. “I want to live, to be proud of my accomplishments and succeed in my small business.”
Since she joined the project, Grace started selling onions and other products at the local markets. The money she makes allows her and the children to eat. It also helps her pay rent and provide some of the necessary supplies for her children’s school. She wants to work and continue improving her business.
During Mathilde’s last visit, Grace was asking for advice on how to make more money, become independent and make her business stronger.
“What keeps me strong and empowered is the certainty that I am not alone,” celebrated Grace.
Not many people know that Grace is HIV positive: her eldest son, her mom and social workers. Her seventeen-years-old son makes sure she continues to take her medicine so she can continue fighting and live. Her parents still have a hard time accepting her illness and her status, but Mathilde and the project accompany her through this journey.