“Juan has a long history of opportunistic infections so the severe recurrence of immunodeficiency disorders in his case is to be expected. However, it is noteworthy that when Juan has been very sick, his response to treatment has been favorable. This must be due, at least in part, to his zest for life and we believe we must help to him to survive.”
AID FOR AIDS International (AFAI) received this note from Juan’s doctor, a pediatric infectologist in Honduras, as part of an application for entrance into our Access Treatment Program. The AFAI team immediately considered Juan’s case by reviewing his medical history (viral load tests, CD4 count and hematology) and some time later he became one of the thousands of beneficiaries of our program, receiving month by month, the antiretroviral therapy to help him continue his life.
Born in 1996, Juan was diagnosed with HIV by the age of 3. The virus was acquired Perinatally (before, during, or after birth) because his mother lived with HIV and was not treated properly during pregancy or Juan’s birth. He began his antiretroviral therapy at 6 years old but could only be treated for the subsequent 6 months because his mother did not have sufficient money to defray the cost of medicines and medical tests.
As Juan’s heath condition was worsening, he was lsent to the Organization Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) Honduras, which helped him restart his treatment and gave him the requisite support to succeed. But after several years and despite receiving antiretroviral therapy with medicines available in Honduras, Juan again began experiencing numerous opportunistic infections and his immune system continued weakening dramatically. At this point of his life, Juan was now in his grandmother’s care after the death of his mother.
Juan’s deteriorating health so alarmed members of the Organization NPH Honduras, that they helped him undergo a HIV Resistance Testing (genotype). The results were not encouraging as they showed he had developed resistance to most antiretroviral drugs available in his country. This meant that the drugs he was taking had no positive effect on him anymore and he required a new therapy not available in Honduras. It was then that NPH Honduras contacted AFAI for support with antiretroviral medication that the child desperately needed to stay alive.
“Before having the support of NPH Honduras and AFAI, Juan was constantly hospitalized with opportunistic infections and nobody gave him more than a few months to live if he continued in that state,” said Ross Egge, Assistant to the National Director of NPH who is responsible for Juan and other children in the group. The work of NPH members is to help guide and support these children in their educational process, much like a parent would. They are often referred to as “Uncle.”
At the request of NPH Honduras, AFAI admitted Juan, along with two other children in similar dire condition, to its Access to Treatment program, thus helping them recover favorably. The three children, now in their adolescence, continue to attend courses and sessions in the NPH Honduras preparing them for a rich and rewarding life. “For all three, it’s very difficult living with HIV, especially having been diagnosed at such a young age but they are alive and enjoying the benefits of youth and that’s very good,” Roger of NPH told us, commenting for this article.
Today Juan, at 16-years of age, is a healthy, bright and strong young man finishing his courses in Computer Science. Attending classes regularly, he also spends much time having fun with friends as befits anyone his age and is an excellent athlete who loves to play football.
In a recent letter addressed to AFAI, Stefan Feuerstein, National Director of NPH Honduras said, “Every donation of medicine that we receive from AFAI teaches our children the valuable lesson that resources are meant to be shared with our brothers and sisters and that every child has the right to health and happiness. This means that with each other’s support, we can make a big difference in the lives of others,” he said.
“We fully agree with these words as we know that this is the ultimate mission of our Access to Treatments Program: Share medicines, share life,” says Eduardo Hernandez, Program Coordinator. Over the years, Eduardo has been extremely gratified in being able to witness first-hand the great progress these children have made especially now that they have grown into successful young adults living with HIV/AIDS.
NOTE: Referring to Juan, we used a fictitious name so as to protect his right to privacy.