Saturday, December 10, 2011

No CD4, No Initiation

 Sithembile Matsenjwa is 47 this year and lives in Maphiveni with her husband.  She and her husband were tested by CHIPS in February 2009 and both are HIV+.  Blood was drawn in 2009 to check their CD4 counts.  Both of their CD4 counts were above the threshold for being initiated on ART.  Every 4-6 months CHIPS would re-draw blood to check their CD4 counts.  The threshold for starting ART in Swaziland is 350 now.
In November our staff began relaying instances where the government labs refused to take blood samples for follow up tests due to lack of reagents.  Follow up CD4 counts are performed for people like Sithembile who are still above the threshold to begin ART and for people who are on ART to check that the drugs are effective.  The Swazi Times reported on the situation in November as well.
Sithembile with Mary dos Santos, CHIPS HIV Counselor
What does this mean for Sithembile and her husband?  It means even though they know they are HIV+, they will have no way of knowing when their CD4 count has dropped beneath the threshold so they will not be able to begin ART.  The natural progression of HIV from infection to onset of AIDS is typically 5 to 10 years.  Sithembile, her husband, and many more know they are living with a clock that is ticking down.  Their only hope for delaying or stopping that clock is access to anti-retrovirals.
CHIPS tries to lend encouragement (and slip in blood samples for recounts when we can).   
Sithembile and so many like her and her husband are casualties of the financial crisis gripping the Kingdom of Swaziland.  So while the government had stated that health care would remain untouched, it is in fact already affected in a very real way.  While we can't support the entire country, we are looking for a way to source the reagents needed if only for the Good Shepherd Hospital in Siteki that we work directly with.  If you can help with this specific need or want additional information, please contact us. 
We know with your help we can continue to make a real difference in the lives of the marginalized and forgotten in Maphiveni.
"Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people." Psalm 82:3 & 4