Thursday, 8 April 2021
Hope For Life Benin is a SIMaid project that aims to provide holistic care to People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and their families in order to improve their living conditions, reduce stigmatization within their community and demonstrate the love of God. The project runs a full-time clinic attached to a local hospital, a part-time clinic and two monthly mobile clinics. Together, these clinics provide medical treatment for PLHIV, testing on request and voluntary counselling.
The patients that test positive are often among the poorest of the population. In Benin, a person living with HIV often faces stigmatization and sometimes rejection by their family. Women, who are generally financially dependent on their family or husband, can be ostracised once they are diagnosed with HIV. Orphans and vulnerable children impacted by HIV, may miss out on going to school due to their carers lack of means to purchase school supplies or pay for school fees.
Hope For Life Benin nurse and team member, Miriam shared, “Traditional belief in the spirit world is strong and this also influences what people believe about health and sickness. Most sick people address themselves first to local healers to purge evil spirits. Chronic disease is a difficult concept for people to understand and patients are often tempted to abandon treatment when they feel better.”
As well as offering children and adult support groups for PLHIV, the project also seeks to educate communities on prevention and HIV and AIDS-related issues. The team also seeks to journey with people who have tested positive and care for them by administering medical treatment, conducting home visits and offering support groups and counselling.
While COVID-19 restrictions in Benin have limited large gatherings; the staff were diligent in resuming smaller support groups.
Below, you can read how Hope For Life Benin journeyed with one of their patients, Worou*, for over a decade.
In 2008, Worou came to a family friend and the clinic supervisor at Hope For Life Benin, to say that he had tested positive for HIV in another location. The clinic confirmed Worou’s positive test result and initiated antiretroviral (ARV) therapy.
Worou greeted the clinic staff with a kind smile when he came for his follow up appointments. Worou was a chauffeur and his work often involved driving to neighbouring countries. As his work continued to take him far away from home, his adherence declined and he often showed up late for his appointments. Each time, he would assure the team that he would not be late to his next appointment.
In April last year, Worou had a job that took him to Burkina Faso. As he was crossing the border, he was identified as having had contact with someone infected with COVID-19. He was kept in isolation for 21 days. Worou was not allowed to gather his belongings, including his ARV medication. During his time in isolation, a sore on his foot was left untreated and it became infected. When Worou was released, he was extremely ill and had lost weight. He came back to the clinic and was almost unrecognisable. He restarted his ARV medications but did not improve.
Over the next few weeks, Worou’s condition deteriorated and he was taken to the hospital. After 10 days in hospital, Worou was discharged and his sister took him to her home to care for him. Unfortunately, Worou continued to weaken. His sister took him to the local healer for treatment instead of returning to the hospital. A short time later Worou’s mother contacted the clinic staff to inform them that Worou had passed away. While the team were saddened, they rejoiced in the opportunity they’d had to care for Worou and demonstrate Jesus’ compassion to him and his family over many years.
Clinic nurse, Miriam, said, “When a patient does not adhere to their ARV therapy, they often appear to be in good health for many years. They do not realise how weak their immune system has become. When a seemingly small health problem comes up, their immune system cannot handle it and they can go downhill very quickly. An important part of our work at the clinic is encouraging our patients to adhere to their medications even when they are in good health.”
Motivated by the desire to show God’s love, the Hope For Life Benin team seek to provide holistic care to their patients and encourage positive behaviours in caring for themselves, such as taking medication and attending clinic appointments.
*Name changed to protect identity
Representative image used
GIVE: Help more people living with HIV in Africa and Asia access holistic medical care! Your tax-deductible gift to Hope For Life (09330) can help change lives. You can give at sim.org.au/hopeforlife
GO: Could you use your medical skills to demonstrate the love of Christ to communities in need of medical care? Many opportunities exist for you to use your skills on the field. Start a conversation with a SIM Mission Mobiliser today at sim.org.au/enquire
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