Thomas: Hope after HIV/AIDS
A decade ago, an HIV/AIDS diagnosis for someone living in Ugenya, Kenya almost always meant death. Because of the social stigma around the disease and the lack of information available, whole communities believed the disease was passed to others by the infected person's "spirit," which meant that many infected individuals were abandoned by family members and left to die. In the best of instances, the infected person was placed on a wooden pallet in a tiny shack, and brought meals every few days. Nobody even cleaned them.
Thomas Sadima was a well-educated, finance professional in Nairobi when he first contracted HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, Thomas also had tuberculosis, which complicated his situation and left his health greatly compromised. Thankfully, Thomas received immediate medical care and medications and has been able to live a relatively healthy life since his diagnosis.
Something changed in Thomas the day he received his diagnosis and his life would never be the same. He decided to return to his hometown in Ugenya, a very rural area in Western Kenya and help those infected with HIV/AIDS who are less fortunate. He became a Community Health Worker for Matibabu Foundation and is paid only a fraction of what he used to make in finance - but beams from ear to ear with pride for the impact he's having on the community.
Thomas knows the community forwards and backwards. He used to go everywhere by foot but now has a bicycle which has expanded his range tremendously. He often finds people on their deathbeds, abandoned, without any hope, and carries them to the hospital. With medication for infections and antiretrovirals and adequate nutrition, many make remarkable recoveries. HIV/AIDS no longer means end of life - and the community better understands how the disease is actually passed along.
Three of the people Thomas rescued from isolated homesteads now work for Matibabu Foundation - one receptionist, one maintenance man, and one AIDS counselor. Thomas is passionate, dedicated, and is a role model for the other Community Health Workers.