John*, like most teenagers in Honduras, loves to play soccer and is a die-hard fan of the soccer team “Olimpia,” which hails from the capital city of Tegucigalpa. He plays in an organized community league with his peers every Saturday. John lives at Montaña de Luz, a home for children infected and affected by HIV in Honduras. Currently, Montaña de Luz is home to 32 children and adolescents who come from a variety of states throughout Honduras.
In 2005, when John was only nine years old, his mother died of AIDS. After that, John and his younger sister moved from home to home of various family members in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. This instability in his home life lent itself to a lapse in addressing John’s medical needs and a failure to follow a strict treatment regimen. As a result, he was hospitalized on several occasions, especially after his mother’s passing. Not only was John’s health increasingly unstable, but also his sister and he were living in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city. Caught between turf wars of local gangs and the drug trade, it became an increasingly unsafe environment for them to live.
In 2008, John and his sister came to Montaña de Luz, which has been their home for the past five years. Upon his arrival, John was put on a rigid ARV schedule; the nurse and nurse’s assistant administered his medications meticulously every 12 hours. Over time, it became evident that John was resistant to the majority of ARVs available in Honduras.
In 2012, John began to lose a lot of weight and his cocktail of ARVs, the last mixture available in Honduras, was not having its intended effect. His viral load increased to more than 20,000 and his CD4 count was below 200. He could feel his body surrendering to the HIV infection, which caused him to sink into depression. This depression was only intensified by the death of a ten year-old boy who lived at Montaña de Luz and, like him, suffered greatly from the virus. He gradually began to care less and less about school and ultimately ended up dropping out before the year ended during his first year of middle school.
He continuously complained about headaches and general weakness, which forced him to give up one of his great loves: playing soccer. The doctors at CAI, the HIV/AIDS department of the University Hospital (Hospital Escuela) in Tegucigalpa, grew progressively more concerned about his future. They collaborated with the staff of Montaña de Luz to look for solutions outside of Honduras, given that national support had been completely exhausted and unsuccessful.
When AID FOR AIDS came into the picture, it was amazing to see how quickly they took on the challenge. With the help of John’s doctors, they came up with a new cocktail of drugs that they believed would be able to halt the development of HIV in John’s body. With the incredible collaboration of the hospital, AID FOR AIDS, and Montaña de Luz, John received his first shipment of this new cocktail of medications–donated by AID FOR AIDS and the hospital–scheduled to start in January of 2013. One ARV was in the form of an injection. This was a difficult change for John, because not only was he not used to twice-a-day injections, but also his minimal amount of body fat made the injections incredibly painful. However, he started a new and healthy diet to gain weight, and the nurses taught him how to administer his own injections. Little by little, the process became easier, less painful, and a part of his daily routine.
Within weeks we began to see results; his new test results were astonishing. For the first time in months, his CD4 count was over 200 and his viral load was down to 457. He not only began to look better physically, but he began to believe again in a future he had given up not even a year before. He was accepted into a furniture-making program at the government-sponsored trade school in Tegucigalpa with hopes to eventually pursue auto-mechanics when a position becomes available. John has much more energy and has integrated himself back into the soccer team, which is currently in the midst of competing in a community-wide tournament. He continues to grow stronger with every passing day and is grateful for the chance to dream again.
Thank you AID FOR AIDS for giving John a second chance to live and to dream!
From John, the staff of Montaña de Luz and CAI (Hospital Escuela)
*This is a fictional name used to protect the identity and privacy of this beneficiary.