Behind the 90-90-90 Targets
Catherine Sie Akoua Kouassi, Community Linkage Advisor, has been working with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatrics Foundation (EGAPF) in Cote d’Ivoire since 2006. She has been at the forefront of the epidemic in her country well before her employment with EGPAF.
Cathy has tirelessly demonstrated her passion for ending AIDS and is well respected in the field by her peers. She has been a strong advocate, designer and supporter of Cote d’Ivoire’s community strategies efforts.
At the annual Djidja Technical Program Retreat, Cathy was asked to give a presentation on the program’s community strategies to reach the goal of getting 90% of people in the country on treatment* with a fully suppressed viral load by 2020.
During her presentation on community approaches, Cathy became emotional when recalling the experiences she’d had interacting with so many people whose lives have been profoundly affected by HIV/AIDS. Including her own. During her presentation, Cathy disclosed that she too, was living with HIV.
Cathy tested HIV-positive in November 1998. She had not been very strict on respecting time to take her ARVs and had even missed some doses. As a result, her viral load was very high. Cathy’s doctor recommended another viral load test in three months and encouraged her to take her medicine more carefully. She felt ashamed and confused when the doctor gently reprimanded her and encouraged her to remain observant in her treatment as she, of all people had to show the example and be a model patient.
Right then and there, she made the decision to be adherent again and shared the news with her husband who encouraged and supported her.
As a veteran patient, Cathy knew that it was important to choose a consistent time every day to take her medicine. She stuck to her routine diligently.
Three months later, Cathy was retested and her viral load was below 50 - which corresponded to full suppression with a CD4 count of 600. Cathy ended her poignant speech by telling the group that, since her scare, her viral load has remained undetectable.
She beamed when the audience enthusiastically cheered her on. She felt empowered, strong and capable of taking control of her own life.
Today Cathy is the mother of two healthy, happy children, and continues to be a strong advocate and voice in her community.