The Mtito Andei grannies story is one of hope—a story of 15 grandmothers who care for their HIV-positive grandchildren following the death of their own children caused by HIV-related illnesses. The grandchildren are receiving HIV care at Mtito Andei Health Centre, one of 58 HIV clinics supported by ICAP in the South region of Eastern Province in Kenya. A one-stop shop for HIV and TB diagnosis and management for children, the Centre has expanded its services to provide health and social support care for the elderly grandmothers of these children.
Each month, the 15 grandmothers bring their grandchildren to the clinic for routine check-ups. As the children receive their care, grandmothers have their own set of check ups–they attend a psychosocial support group where they discuss their experiences caring for their children, offering encouragement and companionship to one another. They also receive basic clinical evaluations, such as blood pressure monitoring and information regarding other health conditions.
At 80-years old, Ndani Mwulu has ten grandchildren that were left to her care by her three children who all died of HIV-related illnesses. Ndani Mwulu discovered that one of her grandchildren was HIV-positive, after he had collapsed in school and was taken to the Mtito Andei Health Centre. She explains that she and her grandson were given care and counseling, and she now is hopeful of her grandchild’s future. “If I had learned all this about HIV earlier, my three children would not have died” she says. “I am determined to make my grandson live a healthy and long life.”
During a recent site visit, ICAP staff spoke to the 15 grandmothers who shared their praise for the clinic. “The group has given us a forum to share our experiences and encourage one another. When we bring our grandchildren to the clinic, we feel that we are also taken care of, so we are a group of healthy grandmothers bringing up healthy HIV-infected children. Really the clinic has brought to us what we never thought was possible,” said one grandmother.
This initiative is one of several supported by ICAP to help include often-overlooked populations (such as grandmothers), and encourage them to be agents of care. It is also part of ICAP’s focus to build on the HIV platform to address other health conditions, including the chronic non-communicable diseases that the grandmothers in this setting are at risk for.