World AIDS Day 2008: Brendan Bannon blog - Day Eight

WORLD AIDS DAY

There is also malaria, meningitis, opportunistic infections - too many to count - and, of course, tuberculosis (TB). Outside the hospital as I write this, there is a huge public rally to mark the day. For some, it is a day of mourning. For others, it is a celebration and an affirmation of life.

On the wards it is another day of work for the doctors and another day of struggle or reckoning for the patients.

TB is resurgent in places like Homa Bay; places where people live in poverty. The living quarters are dark and cramped with many people sharing a single room house.

HIV compromises immunity and allows TB to take hold. The living conditions contribute to its spread. The treatment for TB is complex and long.

Lillian, an MSF patient, is in the hospital today with a TB relapse. She is hooked up to a tube that drains the mucuss from her lungs. On her bedside table she has a small purse, purple plastic cup filled with porridge, mobile phone charger, many satchets of pills and a small red mirror.

"I want to see my face, so I brought the mirror. In the morning after I wash, I look to see myself. When I looked before, I saw some fuzz from the blanket. I brushed them off and I was amused."

Her eyes are lively, inquisitive and probing.

"Before, when I looked in the mirror, I was fat and more beautiful. Today I see I am thin and not looking like myself."

Lillian knows that if the treatment works, she may again look like she did before. When she looks in the mirror in the future she may be fat and beautiful once more.