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Last Updated: Monday, 10 November, 2003, 11:16 GMT
Photo assignment: Fighting back
Monica
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HIV positive since 1994, Monica is a volunteer with the Kibera Community Self Help Program. She spends at least five days a week visiting those infected with the HIV virus in Nairobi. Photographer David Snyder of Catholic Relief Services joined her.
Henry
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Another volunteer, Henry, attends a welcome at the Voluntary Counselling and Testing centre in Kibera for an official from the US. It was at this same centre that Henry first learned he was HIV positive in February 2000.
Henry and Monica at work
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Henry and Monica have worked together now for three years and their relationship is easy and casual. Brief moments of levity such as this are a welcome break from the stressful and emotional work of caring for those affected by HIV and Aids.
Henry and Monica visiting the sick
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Two million people live in Kibera, a teeming slum of wattle houses with tin roofs. Most do not have electricity or running water. Such conditions make home-based care challenging, as those with HIV lack proper sanitation and nutrition.
Working with the community
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Henry and Monica are well known among the community, living openly with their HIV status. It is this familiarity and accessibility that makes their work so effective, as they try to break down the stigma that still surrounds HIV and Aids in Kenya.
Henry waits outside while Monica visits a client
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Clients are visited several times each month, more frequently if they fall sick and require more intensive care. As well as health checks, the visits provide psychological and moral support to those suffering, sometimes not openly, from HIV or Aids.
Henry with medical supplies
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Both Henry and Monica are lightly armed to fight the war on Aids. They pack an assortment of tongue depressors, basic antiseptic, rubber gloves and gauze dressing in the small blue bags they carry with them on their rounds.
A training session
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Educating both those who are positive and those not infected with the virus is a key component of Henry and Monica's work. "If everyone gets educated and talks about HIV, it will help to put a human face on HIV," says Henry.
Henry and Monica on a home visit
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Given basic training in psychological and physical health care, Henry and Monica often serve as nurses for clients who are ill at home. The emotional boost these visits provide to sick clients is often as significant as any physical care they can offer.
Ester at home
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One of those in their care is Ester. Wounded in the bomb blast that destroyed the American Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, Ester learned of her HIV positive status during a subsequent visit to the hospital for treatment of her injury.
Bernard at home
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Others like Bernard have less dramatic but equally tragic stories. Though he has not yet been tested, he has tuberculosis, a common indicator of HIV infection. Bernard is living alone, his parents having returned to their family home in rural Kenya.
Henry wears a red AIDS ribbon
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Faith is an underlying theme for both support workers. Henry wears a red Aids ribbon to a community church to make others aware of his status. He uses the day to strengthen him spiritually and educate others.
Henry hands out leaflets
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Henry and Monica are often on the streets of Kibera, teaching residents about the risks of HIV and tuberculosis, whilst working to combat the stigma surrounding the virus by announcing their own status.
Local children and TB awareness posters
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Even young children are taught to recognize the dangers of HIV and its related illnesses. Tuberculosis, or TB, is common in the crowded and unsanitary Kibera slum.
Monica's clients with antiretroviral medication
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About half of Monica's regular clients are on antiretroviral medication provided by the Centre for Disease Control in the US, as is Monica herself. Such medications are not readily available to the vast majority of HIV positive people in Africa.
Henry with his medication
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Henry and Monica know well that the battle against HIV and Aids must be fought not only with drugs, but with the education, determination, and compassion they carry with them each day onto the streets.





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