Saturday, December 4, 2010
I have two sons, and one of my sons has four brothers.
No, just a family blended by the great adventure of ten years in Africa, the tragedy of AIDS, and the joy of adoption. Matthew was born in the US, but grew up in Tanzania, inseparable from his best friend, Will. When Will’s mom lost her battle with AIDS, we adopted him as a young teen and brought him with us when we moved back to Pennsylvania. He now makes us proud as an engineering student at Pitt.
For a few years, we lost track of Will’s youngest brother, Rama, who spent time in a village with relatives. Then, in 2007, my daughter and I visited Mtwara, our old home in Tanzania, and found him, back with his grandmother and the other grandchildren she cared for so well. Sadly, we discovered that Rama, the little boy Will had watched out for as a young boy, had contracted HIV from his mom at birth. But at 13, Rama was still attending school, playing soccer, and growing into a teenager himself.
We had left Tanzania in 2000, when anyone who contracted HIV could expect to live only a few years. But Rama seemed to be doing amazingly well! His brothers and grandmother had been caring for him, faithfully taking him for retroviral medications that PEPFAR had provided to so many in Africa. We were anxious to see him, but the day we visited he was at school, with the same teacher that Will had known years before.
Just before we saw Rama at school, he had been diagnosed with TB, in addition to AIDS. At the time, I was afraid that that would be too much for any boy to bear, but Rama has even beaten TB, and is still thriving! This is more than I had ever hoped for, after having lost my own cousin to AIDS in 1991, and then living in East Africa in the earlier years, when HIV was a hopeless diagnosis.
I am so proud to be part of a nation that extends the miracle of life to kids like Rama, not a stranger or a statistic, but my son’s little brother.
Joanna, Rama, older brother, Jackson