World AIDS Day 2008: Homa Bay

Brendan Bannon blog

DAY ONE: HOMA BAY

From Brendan... Hello. Here is the first bit from Homa Bay. I have enclosed a couple of images and a text that can be used as an introduction to the blog. The numbers are from the field coordinator anna and are best estimates - a fact I tried to make clear in my intro.

The rest of the text is from a young man i spoke to on the beach
where I photographed the fishermen. The fishermen were informed that I was doing pictures for MSF and that they would be used publicly on the internet.

There should be no assumption made of the status of these fishermen. None of them offered that info. They are just an example of what the area looks like and some of the activities here.

Next up will be stories from the clinic.

All the best,
Brendan

Homa Bay, perched along the shores of Lake Victoria, is the district center; a town of between 50,000 to 70,000 people.

In Kenya HIV prevalence is difficult to pinpoint. Recent government reports put it at approximately 30 percent in this area.

MSF runs a program here providing treatment to 13,000 patients. Roughly 10,000 of these people are receiving lifesaving anti retroviral treatment ( ART).

Of that number there are 1,053 children on ART. Treatment for children remains a challenge. It is not well adapted to children and it is difficult to take. There is still poor identification and testing and parents remain reluctant to have their children tested.

The numbers alone are overwhelming but behind each number are thousands of individual human lives for whom a positive diagnosis is a life changing event.

In the pictures that follow, I will try and bring you closer to the day to day reality here in Homa Bay, one town among thousands worldwide where the problems and challenges of HIV are being faced daily.

One of the people I spoke to was Dennis, a secondary student and former

fisherman: "Once someone has been infected with the virus the whole family will
be affected. Here the men make their living fishing and if the man gets sick the whole family suffers because he cannot work.

"HIV transmission is linked to poverty. If there is a fisherman and he has money he will give the money or even fish to have sex with a local woman. It's like this: a friend of mine was a total orphan. Both parents died from AIDS when she was 17. At the time she was in secondary school.

"She was the eldest and when her parents died many friends and relatives ran away, they didn't help her. She had younger siblings to care for and no options for a job. She found big friends to help. She was bold and would tell you her problems and offer you whatever you wanted if you would help her.

"She was beautiful and what they wanted was to sleep with her. She started getting sick and soon she died.

"Before the drugs were introduced very many people were dying. Now with the drugs its hard to see people in town looking ill. If you walk along the lake you won't see one of these skinny people. Town folks who are positive can eat and will take their medicines.

"There's a lot of money from fishing but it is used extravagantly.

They spend it on women. Money is used as a weapon to win the heart. There is no true love on the lake only lust. If there is any love it is the love of money.

Girls can't fish and if you can't fish how do you get money?"