A Nurse With a Mission: Ngegu Dispensary, Kenya

By Eric Kilongi | June 19, 2014

At the center of the Ngegu Dispensary’s success is Caroline Atieno, the nursing officer who has headed the facility since 2008, just a year after the government took over the facility from a local organization, which operated it as a community service.

Caroline’s passion has transformed Ngegu into a fully functioning outpatient, integrated HIV center. The facility provides HIV testing and counseling, care and treatment, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services which includes diagnosis and treatment of infants for HIV, tuberculosis management, child welfare support services, voluntary male medical circumcision, and basic laboratory services.

From a dozen patients a day in 2008, staff at the facility now see up to 100 patients daily all of the appointments happen in five 7-by-7 foot rooms, including a delivery room with two beds for mothers to rest after giving birth.

“It hurts me to see children get infected with HIV,” says Atieno. “To get results, I need to first win their trust. I have become like them. I participate in community activities with them and attend their funerals, schools, among other things.”

With support from EGPAF, the Ngegu staff identify and systematically monitor HIV positive pregnant women from pregnancy until 18 months after birth when their children get their final HIV test results.

Peer educators (women who have gone through the same experience) help HIV positive women to come to terms with their status by sharing relevant information with each other in a support group. The peer educators also follow up with patients who fail to return for appointments. If necessary they visit them in their homes to ensure the patients continue with treatment.

The personnel who run the Ngegu Dispensary keep their eyes on the prize, accounting for every patient who has gone through the system while striving to identify and reach every HIV positive pregnant woman with effective PMTCT services until no child has AIDS.

Eric Kilongi is the EGPAF’s Senior Communications Officer for Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya.