It’s hard to imagine Luwiza Makukula of a dozen or so years ago.
“Things were very difficult in Zambia then,” said Makukula, a soft-spoken and elegantly dressed grandmother of two I met briefly during a visit to Seattle this week. Her visit was sponsored by the anti-poverty organization RESULTS, a group which the Seattle Times’ columnist Danny Westneat once described as “the most influential anti-poverty group you’ve never heard of.” One of the reasons for this is the way RESULTS has operated for some 30 years – quietly, persistently and face-to-face.
That’s why Makukula came here from Zambia to tell her story.
“I lost my husband to HIV in 2001,” she said. “We didn’t know but after he died I started getting sick with fevers, in and out of the hospital.”
Makukula was eventually diagnosed with TB, and then found to also be HIV-positive. By then, she was in a wheelchair, suffering from exhaustion and cognitive lapses. They put her in an isolation ward that she said “felt like jail.” The drugs she needed to stay alive cost about $200 a month, in a country which at the time had an annual per capita income of about $1000.
She wasn’t alone in her deadly predicament. At the time, HIV and TB were burning a wide swath across much of southern Africa. Continue reading