Thomas Soyoua is a farmer in Kawanga, a sparsely populated, rural area in western Kenya, not far from Lake Victoria. He has five children and works in the fields to earn enough to feed his family. Six years ago, Thomas felt so weak that work became impossible. His children had to drop out of school because he could no longer pay the fees. Soon after, he took a test, discovered he was HIV-positive and was promptly put on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.
“At that time I was very weak,” says Thomas. “I was immediately put on treatment with ARVs. I was given advice on how to use the drugs. And from those days until now, I am just feeling okay.”
We meet Thomas in Got Kojowi health centre. He is proud of his recovery and invites us to visit him at home and see his farm. “It’s very close,” he says.
We drive for about half an hour, first on roads, then on rough tracks, until finally the path becomes so narrow that the car can’t squeeze through and we have to proceed on foot. We walk for another 30 minutes before reaching Thomas’ house.
When Thomas first began ARV treatment, getting hold of the drugs was not easy because of the distance to the nearest health centre. Today, with improvements in the treatment and because Thomas’ health is now stable, he only needs to visit the health centre once every three months.
Thomas will have to take ARV drugs every day for the rest of his life, but he is upbeat and positive about the future, and keen to encourage other people with HIV to live healthy lives. “My hope for the future is to continue with those drugs and to see that I achieve my goal: to educate my children, who are all at school or university now,” he says. “I have also been talking to various people and telling them to be very careful with that disease, because if they don’t stick to their treatment, then they can easily lose their life.”