Meet Momma Margret, a vibrant 72 year old HIV+ grandmother who is the caretaker for 5 of her orphaned grandchildren. Margret lives in the Ting'Wang'I, a small village in Siaya near Kisumu Kenya. Despite making the decision not to remarry after her husband died, she worked to put her children through secondary school. She did not want to invite HIV into her life through another marriage, but when her children needed to build their own homes, culture prevailed and Margret was forced to be "inherited", a term used to describe a marriage after you have been widowed. Unfortunately her new husband and his 2 wives did not disclose that he was already HIV+, so when Margret was given the news it was devastating. This story is unfortunate and not uncommon in the Siaya, an area with a high prevalence of HIV. To hear her voice in her own words was sad enough, she was adamant to let us know that she had deliberately tried to avoid this very scenario. When we left the interview and walked out of Mama Margret's home I saw one of her grandchildren standing alone, with her hands in her mouth to comfort herself. I took some photos, and then one of our guides said "hello Jennifer, Jennifer is such a beautiful little girl, she is standing in front of her Mother's home, when you have an adult child that dies, it is the culture to build a small home to represent them, so that their children can say their mother had her own home, it is considered a disgrace if you can not say your mother had a home" As Jennifer listened to her grandmother talk about her mother, she ran to stand in front of her mother's house, to grieve. I wondered of all the HIV orphans in Siaya, in Kenya, in Africa, in the world and have been holding that in my heart.
With love to Jennifer, her family and all the others afflicted by HIV/AIDs
On December 1st, SWAP, an organization in Kisumu will hold it's annual HIV/AIDs marathon and runners will come to run through the streets of Kisumu to raise money for HIV/AIDs.