National HIV Testing Day

June 27, 2007 | By Brent Stirton | Creative

Photo by Brent Stirton

I was in Kenya for World AIDS Day (2006), a place where the number of women infected by the disease outnumbers men up to 5 to 1 in certain communities. I was walking around Kenwa AIDS Clinic on the outskirts of Nairobi when I noticed a small sparse ward at the end of a cramped corridor. A tall, thin, sober looking man greeted me, explaining formally that he was the head nurse and could help me. I explained that I was in Kenya looking at HIV issues on behalf of the Global Business Coalition against AIDS, TB and Malaria. The man then invited me into a small testing room to show me how they were doing the tests.

Sitting in a chair besides a nurse in a brilliant white smock was a small man wearing a woolen hat with is hand bandaged. He looked at me with my cameras and tried to get up to introduce himself. Embarrased by this gesture I motioned to him to stay seated and asked if he would mind if I photographed him being tested.

He looked at the nurse, looked back at me and nodded. He knew he was sick, he wanted to know for sure what was wrong with him. He wanted access to medicine if he was HIV+. The first test indicated that he was, but in Kenya they currently do two tests where they have the kits available. The second test involved a litmus style strip with 2 bars across opposite sides, a drop of blood is placed on a sensitive panel, and if the other bar becomes illuminated then the person is HIV+ . The small man in the hat picked up the strip while the test was processing and watched silently as he saw the second bar come into being on the test strip. He looked at the bar, looked up at me and held out the strip for me to see. That’s when I shot this picture.

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