The Touching Story of Winnie and Keheala's Impact on Her Fight with TB

One morning, Winnie Nthenya’s husband walked out of their family home in Nguluni, Machakos, never to return. She was pregnant at the time with their third child, and her world was left unanchored and in shambles. While they were together, he had infected her with the HIV virus, and she unknowingly transmitted it to her two girls. Thankfully, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy who is HIV negative.  Until now at least. Little did she know that things were about to get worse.

Winnie is suffering from a recurrent TB infection for the third time. Late last year, her close friend contracted TB but didn’t disclose it to her. With her immune system weak because of the HIV virus, she quickly took ill to TB. Her primary care doctor thought it may be pneumonia, but Winnie wasn’t getting any better. She saw a number of different doctors, but no one could figure out what was causing her illness.

After several months of a persistent cough, Winnie’s throat was so damaged she could hardly eat. She was losing a lot of weight and that concerned everybody. She went to Shalom Hospital where she was admitted, diagnosed with TB and started on treatment.  Her first reaction was utter shock, then denial. She wouldn’t even let her children get tested. After she finally gave in, her eldest daughter’s sputum test results came back positive. That was more than the mother of three could handle.

Winnie faced stigmatization from her community due to the multiple fundraisers she held to afford the hospital bills

She became depressed and hopeless, blaming herself for infecting her daughter. Winnie faced stigmatization from her community due to the multiple fundraisers she held to afford the hospital bills. Her fellow colleagues at the primary school she teaches at would tittle-tattle about her illnesses and missed work days. It took serious intervention and counselling from her doctors and Keheala staff for her to eventually come out of her dejection.

Since Keheala support sponsors started touching base with Winnie, she hasn’t gone a day without verifying treatment.

She would go several days without verifying treatment but since Keheala support sponsors started touching base with her she hasn’t gone a day without verifying treatment. She was a little defiant at first because she thought the Keheala intervention only consisted of a text message that acted as a reminder but has since come to appreciate all our intervention offers. Her compliance score currently stands at 94%. She knows she’ll get it right this time with support from her doctors and Keheala’s Support Sponsors. Winnie wants the rest of TB patients to know there’s hope and wishes the community would empathize, encourage and support them.

ALICE MWIKAMBA