Martine was a vibrant young girl who would often come to my door selling bananas and would stay for a visit as well. Her bright smile and energetic attitude caught my attention. She was around 14 years old and was learning to be a seamstress. Martine had never been to school but she showed me how she could read a few words that the other children had taught her from their lessons. I was pleased to hear that a missionary had offered to help her to go to the Nikki Girls School where she could learn to read and write as well as sew and knit. She would also learn more about God’s Word and how to read the Bible in her own language. The family declined the offer saying that Martine would continue with her apprenticeship to be a seamstress.
The following year, Martine began spending time with a doctor who was doing his practicum at the hospital. She became pregnant shortly thereafter, and the doctor moved away, full of promises to support the mother and child. Martine had a healthy baby boy.
In the months to follow she began to have some health problems and came to the clinic to be tested for HIV. She was found to be positive and after starting on ARV therapy, began to get her strength back. She was faithful to take her medication and come for appointments. We tested the child, at 18 months, and thankfully, he tested negative for HIV.
Martine began to get discouraged when the child’s father would not follow through with his promises. As Christmas drew nearer, the girls in the community began to have their new dresses made for the celebration. The doctor promised that he would send her a new dress with one of the taxi chauffeurs, but the dress never came. Martine’s spirits began to drop further as she realized that he was not interested in the welfare of either her or their child.
Her health began to decline and she came to the clinic more frequently to treat one infection or another. Within a few months, she developed an opportunistic infection and died within a week at the hospital.
Sometimes we see the ARV therapy work wonders with a patient, and at other times, the virus can move quite quickly for a multiple of different reasons. Discouragement is one of our greatest enemies when working to build a person’s immune system and slow down the HIV virus. Martine’s death was a shock to us at the clinic and a reminder to persevere in teaching and sensitizing our young people in the school and community about how to decrease the spread of HIV.
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Report Author: Miriam Stirling of The Alafia Project Benin