Below are a couple of pictures of my patient/friend Sibusisiwe. When she first arrived at the unit, she was very ill and had not been taken care of by anyone. As the days went by, her condition went up and down. Finally, she was stronger enough to train for ARV's. We had a problem when we realized that she had no one to be her "treatment buddy." The clinic requires each patient to have a treatment buddy to attend the classes with them and hopefully assist them as they begin taking the tablets in the future. I explained to her that we could not take her to the clinic unless she came up with someone that could fill this role. Sometimes, families do not take responsibility for our patients, so I was making sure we were covering all the bases. She looked me square in the face and said "Jenn, I don't have anyone to help me. They can't let me die just because of that." The sad reality in South Africa is that yes, yes they will let you die. They being the government clinics, etc. The system is so very broken and many people slip through the cracks.
I started talking with her a little bit more and I realized there was much more to the story than an uninvolved family. She is actually from neighboring Swaziland. She had no family around. The only person she knows here is her boyfriend who is a truck driver who travels a lot of the time. We arranged for one of our volunteers to go with her to the clinic as her treatment buddy which worked out very well.
After completing the classes and getting their blood taken for extensive tests...they wait...and wait...and wait. Finally, if all goes well, about 3 weeks later, they are back at the clinic and they can be initiated on ARV's. These pictures were taken the day Sibusisiwe got back with her tablets in hand. She could not stop hugging me...
After I showed her the pictures she told me that they didn't come out well because "you're too pale Jenn." I just smiled :)