Coming to terms with being HIV positive is a challenge for anyone, but it is particularly difficult for couples when only one of them is diagnosed positive.
On Valentine’s Day, we want to introduce you to Thomas and Elizabeth - a couple from Kenya who have kept their love alive despite a huge challenge.
Ten years ago, after feeling unwell for some time, Thomas was persuaded to have an HIV test. His positive result was a huge shock for him and an even bigger shock for his wife Elizabeth.
Her first thought was: “I have not had an affair so where has the man got the disease?”
It is all too common for couples to break up and families to fall apart after a positive diagnosis.
Had it not been for Merlin, Thomas and Elizabeth may not have made it through this troubled time. It was a Merlin community health worker who made sure that the couple received counselling and emotional support, in addition to ART medication for Thomas.
Elizabeth said: “I was told how we could consistently and effectively use condoms. Now that we have had advice on how we can protect ourselves I am no longer scared.”
This support has transformed Thomas’s outlook: “I no longer have it in my mind that I am sick. My life was so bad. If Merlin were not by my side I would not be alive.”
Thomas and Elizabeth come from Nyanza province, which accounts for 1 in 4 cases of HIV in Kenya, and where 13% of couples are, like them, discordant.
The fact that transmissions within couples now contribute to nearly half of new HIV infections in Kenya makes Merlin’s work all the more important.