No one would touch her. That was the first thing I noticed. On the hike to her home her neighbors had described her to us. HIV Positive. Harsh. Rude. Non-compliant, and not wanting to take care of herself. Covered in jiggers…..
What I found was a woman full of shame and pain. Head downcast. No eye-contact. Shoulders hunched. At thirty-years-old she carried the weight of the world. And their judgement as well. My heart broke for her. But honestly, I didn’t really want to touch her either. We sat and heard her story. Her husband is in the hospital. Two children in school. One barefoot young boy at home taking care of the cows. About three months ago she got sick and missed one of her HIV follow-up appointments. She was too sick to travel to see the doctor. And now she is afraid to go back. She has been yelled at in the past for being irresponsible and missing appointments. And if there is one thing this woman doesn’t need more of, it’s shame.
Thankfully we had a clinician from the HIV clinic in our midst. He assured her that she would be treated well and that he could get her an appointment the very next day. He then convinced a neighbor to take her to the clinic on a motorbike. He assured me that she will not only get care for her HIV, but for her massive jigger infection as well. He handed a bag of gloves to some neighbor women and asked them to assist her. To have compassion. The gloves were received gingerly, held at a distance, and my heart broke again. I knew in that moment that I would be back to see her again.
Then I heard that still small voice. “You have to touch her Michelle. She needs to know that I love her.” And so I did. I placed my hands on her shoulders and prayed over and for her. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to be near to her. I prayed for healing. For strength. And most of all, I prayed for hope….