Interview with Jackson Opira
Lacor Hospital has an AIDS clinic operating daily from Monday to Saturday. Started in 1993, the clinic offers comprehensive care to HIV-infected patients. Community follow-up is done by the faith-based NGO, Comboni Samaritans, which takes care of home-based AIDS care. The Lacor-Comboni partnership ensures good adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Jackson Opira, a 43-year-old farmer, lives near Lacor and is enrolled in the hospital’s ART program. He started taking antiretroviral in 2004.
How did you discover that Lacor Hospital could provide you an effective therapy for HIV?
I got to know that from the Comboni Samaritans. They go to the villages to invite people to get tested. They explain that if you are HIV-positive, you can get treatment and live better. So I volunteered for testing. At that time we were not many because people fear testing. If somebody is HIV-positive, they think they are hopeless. Many don’t know that antiretroviral can change your life.
Is it difficult to follow the therapy?
No, but you have to follow it carefully and go to all the appointments they give you at the hospital. Many people miss their appointments because they forget and fail to go the right day.
How has your life changed since the beginning of your therapy?
Before I used to be very weak. Now I can work many hours on end. I can dig from 6 am till 1 pm. I may even stay for a year without falling sick. Before getting treatment, I could be down 1 or 2 weeks a month. I fell sick frequently. Now I am okay; there is no opportunistic infection. My CD4 have changed from 277 to 570. I have 7 children. My wife is also HIV-positive and she also gets antiretroviral from Lacor. Some of my children have already tested and were negative, and I will take the others for testing.
Does the behaviour of people change when they find out you are HIV positive?
In the past they would think I was a dead person. Now they see me, I’m well, I can work, and honestly… sometimes I am better than them. So now I am an example to people, they see me and feel they can encourage other people to go for testing. I always tell everybody to go, and not to go late, because it’s important you know you are ill before you start feeling weak.
Was it difficult to face the reality of the disease with your wife?
We accepted it. We stayed close, we are a family. The doctors helped us.
By Chiara Paccaloni et Filippo Campo