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Heading to the FWA’s Kamenge Clinic
By Dr. Alexia Nibona, Director

There were moments when I felt alone in the world and felt very sad. At those times, if I was at home, I would find myself heading to the FWA’s Kamenge Clinic because I was sure that there was always someone there who was ready to listen to me, understand me, counsel me, comfort me, and give a feeling of living again. Claudine Iradukunda

The interconnected challenges faced by women in Kamenge, a poor suburb of Bujumbura, the capitol of Burundi, include the following.

• HIV/AIDS: The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Kamenge is not known but the World Bank estimates that Burundi as a whole has an infection rate of 11.2% and in a preliminary test done by the FWA’s clinic, 17% of the people tested were HIV positive.
• The lack of food security (especially as food prices have in some cases doubled over the past year) which exacerbates the difficulty of healing from diseases such as HIV/AIDS. According to the World Food Program, only 18 percent of Burundi’s population is food secure, and thirty-four percent are extremely food insecure (consuming less than 1,400 kcal per day). They also estimate that 70 percent of family expenditure goes to food, which makes rising prices very difficult to cope with
• The lack of access to clean drinking water.
• The lack of appropriate local health care.
• Psychosocial trauma from the war.
• Stigmatization of people who are HIV+.
• Sexual violence: While there are no official statistics on domestic violence, a recent survey by the Association of Catholic Women Jurists estimated that one out of every three women in Bujumbura is being beaten at home. It’s conceivable this number is even higher in Kamenge.

The challenges faced by the people of Kamenge are considerable. Yet they are also a proud, resilient, and caring people who want urgently to rebuild their lives, to care for each other, and to create a better future.

I want to thank AGLI for the support that it has given to FWA -- from its beginning until today – and for supporting me as the Director of the FWA, initially part-time, and now as full-time staff.

Currently FWA has an Executive Committee of 11 members that meets four times a year and 37 members that make up the General Assembly that meets once a year. Personnel that work at the clinic include Dr. Alexia Nibona, Director; Joselyne Dusabe, Program Director; Marcelline Girukwishaka, Manager and Accountant; two nurses, a hygienist, and a custodian, plus a volunteer treasurer and a psychological counselor.

The clinic is currently involved in helping the people of Kamenge, with
- HIV/AIDS testing, treatment of opportunistic infections
- Information about and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases
- Prevention of mother-child HIV transmission
- Counseling, including plans to have HROC/HIV trainings [see article on page XXX]
- Anti-stigmatization sensitization

This July, three people came from the United States and Canada to participate in a workcamp to help expand the clinic [see article on page 15]. With the completion of the additional rooms, supported by this year’s workcamp, we will be able to be certified as a treatment site for anti-retrovirals and other more advanced forms of treatment by the Ministry Public Health. To achieve certification, we will also need to hire additional nurses that have been trained by the Ministry of Health and have a Program Director for HIV/AIDS.

We were recently able, with the support of AGLI, to purchase a small plot of land that is adjacent to the clinic. This will enable us to construct additional buildings to house administrative offices and other programs, such as income-generating activities for chronically ill patients who otherwise are unable to have adequate nutrition.

Testimonies from Clinic Clients

Claudine Iradukunda lives in Kinama, close to Kamenge and is a widow with four children:

I went to visit my family in Rwanda and when I returned I discovered that my husband had tuberculosis and that he had tested positive for HIV but he had not told me about it. I continued to ask him questions because he had many medicines. His response was that I had to get tested as well but I didn’t understand why. But I agreed to be tested and I realized that I also was HIV positive.

I continued to be sick without knowing that there are medicines to help people who have HIV. It was then that a friend bought me to the FWA clinic. That helped me a lot because I was very sick before coming to the clinic.

Every time that I came to the FWA clinic, Claire [a nurse at the clinic] gave me a warm welcome. I had never taken medications before, but every time that I came they gave me medicines from FWA’s supplies.

The association also really comforted me. There were moments when I felt alone in the world and felt very sad. At those times, if I was at home, I would find myself heading to FWA because I was sure that there was always someone there who was ready to listen to me, understand me, counsel me, comfort me, and give a feeling of living again.

In the future, we will really love to completely belong to/be a member of FWA and to receive anti-retroviral treatments there since it is difficult to have money to buy a ticket to Bujumbura where I receive anti-retroviral treatments.

Vénérande Nsenkambabaye is 46 years old, an unemployed widow, the mother of six children, living in Kamenge:

In 2004, I just happened to be passing by when I saw the sign for FWA and, as I knew I was HIV positive, I asked if I could be treated there and they accepted me right away. I told them that I was also diabetic.

FWA helps us greatly, comforting us and providing us with free medicine. Before coming to the clinic, I felt alone and isolated, without seeing love when we were together in a psychological health meeting and when we were eating together. Personally, I was touched by the welcome that we received at the clinic by Claire, Alexia, and others. FWA also helped us a lot by providing school supplies to my children. When I returned, I said that I wasn’t as sick as before, and when I came down with malaria, I always came directly to the clinic where they tested me and provided me with free treatment.

Looking forward, first I would like to know if it would be possible to receive anti-retroviral treatment from the clinic. Secondly, it would make a big difference if FWA could assist me in providing for my children because it is difficult to satisfy the needs of my children (who are also sick) as an unemployed widow. For example, perhaps FWA could provide a little start up capital so that I could start a small business that would help me provide for my family.

Edmond Miburo, 40 years old, lives in Kamenge with his HIV+ wife, is unemployed, and has five children.

I was an orphan, and was raised by my stepmother, so I didn’t have a chance to attend school. Everything started with the period of the inter-ethnic Crisis [in 1993]. I was taking a bus to the province of Cibitoke when the bus was stopped by armed bandits. I was seriously wounded by the bandits and had to be taken to the hospital where they cared for me for a long time. After leaving the hospital I continued to be sick, and so I decided to be tested for HIV/AIDS and discovered I was HIV positive. [Edmond thinks he contracted HIV while in the hospital.]

FWA gives us a warm welcome and helps us connect to others living with HIV/AIDS, though they are limited in what they are able to provide as treatment. Most of the medicine I am able to get I receive from FWA. FWA doesn’t provide anti-retrovirals, but I would really love it if they did.
FWA helps us send our children to school by providing school materials, and also provides some training about the proper ways to raise children.

I want to sincerely thank FWA because it has really helped us during our hard times. I continue to hope they will be able to provide anti-retrovirals, after that they could also help with other necessities such as help with an activity to generate a little money, as it is I live in a small room with my wife and my 5 children.