“I hail from Ukaya village in Maliera Sub location in North Gem location which is the project area and I am a mother of 6 children” says Rose Achieng Ondienge. The 49 year old whose husband passed on in 2003 also had a co- wife died who passed away soon after in 2004 leaving behind another 5 more children in whose care she was charged. She goes on to add, “After my husband’s death, I started becoming sick most of the time and decided to seek treatment and go for HIV testing and counseling”. She was diagnosed HIV+ in 2004 and immediately put on medication. She adds, “In 2012, I became a member of the North Gem HIV/Aids project which is funded by Dorcas. I was very ill and hospitalized but the project supported me through payment of all my medical bills. I have attended trainings on hygiene, nutrition, and adherence and I am now able to make informed choices regarding my health”. As a result her health has greatly improved over time with her CD4 count improving from 230 in 2012 to 530 while her body weight increased from 53 kilograms to 62 kilograms currently.
The project has also supported Rose with training on improved farming methods and farm inputs especially seeds and fertilizer which not only greatly contributes her diet but also ensures her family has food. “I am looking forward to a good harvest this season “, she quips. As part of diversification, the project trained Rose and members of her support group on establishment and management of income generating activities. She received a grant from the project and begun selling handbags, a business that has picked up now she has opened a shop in her neighborhood in which she sells hand bags, maize, blankets and clothes. She also has a small stall next to her home in which she sells small household good such ads salt, charcoal and soap. Her monthly income now stands at approximately Kshs 25,000 (219 Euro). She says, “This project has really changed our lives and I am blessed to have regular income. When my husband and co wife passed on, the children were young but today four of them have completed high school while the rest are still in school. This is my tenth year with the disease and so everyone should know that being HIV+ is not the end of life”.
She concludes, “My dream is to own a dairy cow and in preparation for that I am already growing Napier grass”. Together with 25 other HIV+ people they have formed a support group where they meet regularly and counsel and encourage each other. They are already rearing dairy goats and also do table banking. They currently have Kshs 8,000 (70 Euro) in their group account.