Proofs: The walking corpse comes to life

Although his stature resembles a basketball player, Bethwel, an HIV-positive father of two, depends on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for survival. Just 10 years ago, Bethwel could not figure out why he could not stay healthy. He kept going back to his doctors suspecting that he had malaria and tuberculosis. But only after his doctors at the Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya prescribed ARV drugs to him did he realize that he had something much worse: HIV/AIDS.

But by the time that was figured out, his doctors doubted he would make it. “I had lost from 89kg to 49 kg (196lbs to 108lbs). I was like a walking corpse,” he recounts. Thankfully, the hospital was able to provide him with free medication thanks to grants from the Global Fund. In Bethwel’s own words, “The ARVs are working. They gave me back my life. They gave me back my health. They gave me back my fatherhood.”

His wife, also HIV positive, soon began taking ARVs provided by the Global Fund as well. And thanks to Mbagathi’s prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) program, she was able to get pregnant and give birth to a baby boy, Isaac who is now two years old and HIV negative.

The funding for programs like those at Mbagathi District Hospital are in jeopardy as the House and Senate hammer out the FY 2011 budgets. The House has proposed a 43 percent cut, about $450 million, to the Global Fund. If the funding is cut, more than 400,000 mothers and fathers will not receive their antiretroviral medication. And more than 58,000 HIV-positive, pregnant women will not receive treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

“The only thing that I need to continue living, to continue being a father to my children, is assurance that these drugs will continue to be supplied,” said Bethwel.