Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hope and improvement

Over the years, we have lost HIV+ women who had also contracted tuberculosis. HIV and tuberculosis is a difficult combination for many reasons, including the toxicity of the medications needed to treat each illness.

One of our street women, Deepti (her name has been changed to protect her privacy), was recently diagnosed with AIDS, and a few weeks later with tuberculosis. Like the other women who died, she was emaciated and could barely eat -- weighing a mere 30 kg (65 lbs). Like the other women we lost, she had a fever for weeks and frequent vomiting and diarrhea. Like the other women we lost, we admitted her to the local HIV clinic, where she started on antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Soon after starting on ART, she developed lumps in her lymph nodes. Testing revealed that she had tuberculosis, and she was started on anti-tuberculosis treatment (ATT). But, unlike the other women we lost, her ART medication was changed to accommodate her need for ATT.

Fortunately for Deepti, the doctors today know better how to treat patients with both AIDS and TB. A few years ago this was not the case, and doctors hesitated putting patients on ART when they were already taking ATT for their tuberculosis. Today, these patients have a better chance of survival.

Deepti was discharged from the hospital and, unlike the other women we lost, her health has improved dramatically -- she has gained a few pounds, can eat a full meal now, looks 100% healthier and happier, and is ready to get on with her life. She still has a long way to go, and we hope that she has many good years ahead of her. Since she has no home, does not want to live on the street, and her family has shut her out, she'll be living at Karunya Mane.