The Last Days of an HIV-Positive Child

Eva was fondly called “everybody’s friend.” At 10 years of age, she was young and tender. The most striking feature about her countenance was the long, delicate, silken hair that framed her beautiful face.

pink flowers

It was often said of her at Bugolobi Child Development Center, where I worked as a child development officer, that Eva would not need to go to a salon because “the salon in heaven did a good job.”

Eva always had a smile for everyone, including strangers, but behind her radiant smile raged a monstrous battle. Opportunistic diseases attacked her daily.

One day, Eva would be bedridden with malaria; another day, it would be a severe cough.

We just did not know what to expect. As such, her Saturdays, when the development center expected her, were often pre-empted by trips to the local hospital. Eva had acquired HIV at birth from her late mother.

One day as I was reviewing the attendance register, it occurred to me that Eva had not attended the center programs for nearly a month.

She had not written a letter to her sponsor, nor had she been available for her child-update photograph. Neither Eva nor her father had given any reason for her lengthy absence.

Nicholas, the center director, and I walked to the shack where Eva’s father lived and asked him about his daughter. He said he had sent her to visit her family in Kawolo, the family’s ancestral village in the far-away district of Lugazi. Her father assured us she would return soon.

After a month, Eva had not returned. Her father avoided Nicholas and me, leaving his shack early in the morning under the guise of going to work and returning late at night after Nicholas and I had closed the office.

We had every reason to end Eva’s sponsorship because she was no longer benefiting from the center programs. An integrity issue was at stake, for Eva’s sponsor was remitting money to the center every month.

It took a group of children in Bugolobi’s Middle East slum to inform us that Eva’s father had abandoned her in Kawolo.

Earlier, when our child development center conducted HIV testing for all the children in the sponsorship program, Eva had tested HIV-positive. Her father received the information but refused to take the test himself.

When Eva’s condition worsened into full-blown AIDS that was visible to onlookers, he no longer wanted to be associated with her. He was afraid his friends and colleagues would think that since his daughter was HIV-positive, then he, too, was HIV-positive.

Eva’s father decided to bundle up the little angel and take her to Kawolo village to “save his face.” When we finally were able to approach him, he showed remorse for his actions.

We hired an ambulance and paramedics and drove to Kawolo village in Lugazi district. We arrived in the heat of the noonday African sun. Beautiful Eva lay shivering, as though it were winter, on a bare mat in a derelict thatched hut.

She had thinned so much that her skeleton protruded beneath her skin. Her lovely hair had fallen out. Eva’s lips had transformed into a wound so big that she was unable to eat. I could not tell how long it had been since she had last eaten.

Eva could not move any part of her body except for her frightened eyes. She saw me and tried to say something but was unable to form words.

The paramedics immediately put her on an intravenous drip and carried her to the ambulance. I rode in the front of the ambulance, worried that Eva would die before we could get her to the Joint Clinical Research Center, the leading hospital in Uganda for HIV/AIDS research.

At the hospital Eva received a clean, warm bed and the best medical care Uganda could offer. Slowly she began to improve and gain weight. She started to smile again, but she had lost her ability to speak.

I visited her in the hospital every day and prayed with her. I delivered flowers and get-well cards from her friends and staff at the child development center and from concerned parents. Eva’s recovery was remarkable.

smiling man

With Christmas festivities approaching, Eva greatly missed her family in Kawolo. She had been in-hospital for three months, and the medical personnel decided that it was now safe to discharge her so she could join her family for Christmas.

It was a joy for Nicholas, the medical personnel and me to watch Eva step out of the hospital. We placed her in a taxicab and bid her farewell to reunite with her family. Then we, too, went to be with our families for Christmas.

On Boxing Day, I received a phone call that Eva had died.

I froze. I asked God, “Why? How?” It felt as though a part of my being had been severed. I traveled for the burial. The entire village came to mourn Eva.

A scuffle erupted as to what mode the burial should take. Some of Eva’s family were Muslim and others were Seventh Day Adventist. Each wanted to bury Eva in accordance with their religion.

Finally, a tough-speaking man rose up from among the mourners and rebuked the two warring factions.

He told them that when Eva was alive and suffering, none of them cared for her. The only people who cared for her were from Compassion International.

He told them that Eva did not die a Muslim or a Seventh Day Adventist. She died having confessed Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior.

At that moment, the mourners burst into tears and sang Uganda’s famous revival song, “Tukutendereza Yesu.” Translation: “Praise Jesus.”

I was given opportunity to speak as the Compassion International representative; I gave an altar call. Several people — including Eva’s father — gave their lives to Christ and we joyfully laid Eva to rest.

Help fight HIV/AIDS today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gerald Kateu served as a child development officer with Bugolobi Child Development Center for seven years before joining our Uganda field office as sponsor and donor services associate in July 2008.

17 Comments |Add a comment

  1. JustMe April 24, 2019

    Wow…a sad but beautiful story. Looking forward to seeing Eva in Heaven one day, though! 🙂

  2. Kathy Rivers January 22, 2012

    Thank you so much for sharing little Eva’s story with us. It is an awesome legacy left on her part that her father accepted Jesus at her funeral! Also like someone else already posted this is just another example of God using something bad to bring on something good not just good but GREAT!

  3. Ellen Halcrow January 7, 2012

    Many thanks for sharing this touching story of Eva what a brave child,this is how God can turn things around and use it for his Glory all those people giving there lives to Christ is such a great testimony,Praise God for the work of Compassion Ministry,

  4. Allen December 6, 2011

    I thank God for selecting you and me to be part of the ministry to the children. A very touching!

  5. Gilbert December 6, 2011

    It is amazing how pain can be turned around by God to bless lives! It is an encouragement to all of us that God is in charge of all circumstances of our lives. We may not see the end to every hard situation but God is working behind the scenes to will and to do according to His divine purposes and definetly for our good. Thank you Gerald for sharing this beautiful story.

  6. Frank Obonyo December 6, 2011

    Gerald, I have read this story without taking a breath! We celebrate that Eva confessed the Lordship of Jesus Christ. God bless you all who did this and that to ensure she does not miss heaven!

  7. Yona Kapere December 6, 2011

    Thank you Gerald for making a difference in Eva’s life. Yes Eve passed on but we still have many more where we can make a difference. May the Lord help us to stand with such children all the way.

  8. Victoria December 6, 2011

    Just could not hold my tears through to the last line, how many Evas are out there abandoned and neglected, great lesson for us all especialy those directly reaching out to the young ones, you are called to be closer to that little heart than a family may be allow God to use you and me beyond paper work. God bless CI ministry.

  9. kendhye Conte December 4, 2011

    Thanks so much for God allowed you to take care of my people.

  10. kendhye Conte December 4, 2011

    Hye, sponsors are greatfull thanks to take care of my country i wish some part of God blessing give it back to you by an other way like a good health and the spirit of God live in your life. Thanks again

  11. Ashlee December 2, 2011

    Wow…that was hard hitting. It was moving to see that one brave soul stand up for what Eva would have wanted and how her new found Christian status was a role model for her family and friends. So touching and helpful to see how this one little girl could have touched so many lives.

  12. Christine December 2, 2011

    I praise God that you were there to be the face of Jesus to Eva! Thank you! I can’t imagine what she went through, but I know that when God doesn’t heal, his grace is present in abundance. Even in her darkest moments, I believe Jesus was there for her in ways we can’t even fathom.

    As far as her father goes, isn’t this a beautiful reminder of God’s grace and love for us, that he would forgive and redeem even a father who left his daughter to die? Our God is so good! He uses everything for His glory–redeeming everything.

  13. patricia December 1, 2011

    there’s a time when we have to see the case in the point of view as a human and not only the administrative way. thanks Gerald for your heart to Eva 🙂


  14. Gail December 1, 2011

    “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” John 12:24

    Praise Jesus that Eva’s life and death has produced much fruit.

  15. Kees Boer December 1, 2011

    It is sad… but at the same time beautiful. She is in heaven. She has no more tears. She is all that she was created to be now. And she was on earth too. It was just a difficult time on earth. I’m glad she is home now…. Thank you for sharing this. God bless you!!!

  16. Katie Axelson December 1, 2011

    This is a beautiful story of how God used something bad for good. Hearing all Eva went through hurts me but knowing that God used her suffering and death to reach those who would not have been reached otherwise brings me joy and peace.

    Thank you,

  17. Layla London December 1, 2011

    Such a sad story, but is a proof that we have to do something to help these children! They are our responsibility!

Add a Comment

Read the ground rules for comments.