Teenager loses brave fight against Aids
AN adopted African teenage boy - who has lived with HIV and Aids since birth - has lost his brave fight against the disease.Glowing tributes have been paid to Yibi Matthews, who continually defied the medical odds to live to 16 years old.
AN adopted African teenage boy - who has lived with HIV and Aids since birth - has lost his brave fight against the disease.
Glowing tributes have been paid to Yibi Matthews, who continually defied the medical odds to live to 16 years old.
His grieving adopted parents, Rev David Matthews and his wife Joan, last night described how the youngster “radiated joy” and spoke of his bravery after he lived longer than any other African baby born with HIV.
Mrs Matthews said: “It was such a privilege to have him as our son. We feel honoured to have been his parents. He was just a remarkable person. His smile could light up a whole room.
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“He loved people and just managed to pour out love from his heart to everyone. He never wanted to keep his illness a secret, he wanted people to know.”
The couple adopted Yibi just before they moved to Boxford, near Sudbury, following almost 30 years working in Africa.
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The brave youngster contracted the virus from his mother who was unable to care for her baby.
When he was then discarded by his grandparents, he lived on the streets before he was found and placed in an orphanage.
Through such wretched circumstances came a chance encounter with Mrs Matthews who had started a nursery at an Aids haven in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
She recalled: “I went and fetched him from the orphanage. He looked neglected, like a typical street child.
“They didn't really want him there because they were so frightened of Aids. And he was always ill.
“We think he had full-blown Aids even then. He was very traumatised. I think because he had been so badly treated he just wanted love. But even at the Haven, he was the odd one out because most of the children were much younger.”
The couple fostered Yibi when they moved 1,000 kilometres away to run a seaman's mission and then adopted him shortly before they returned to England, where Rev Matthews became Rector of the Box River Benefice.
“When we came back to England there was no way we could leave him - by then he was our child - so at that point we officially adopted him,” Rev Matthews said.
Yibi, who attended Cornard Upper School when well enough, then spent eight gruelling months in hospitals in London and Ipswich and, at times, was taking more than 40 pills a day, but the couple refused to let him die in hospital.
Mrs Matthews said: “We promised him he would never be left. He wanted to die at home. He needed 24-hour care. David was sitting with him until 2am then I would take over.
“He was blind in one eye and only had 40% hearing, but he kept smiling through his pain and was a really remarkable, special boy.”
The couple, who have two other children, Sophie and Simon, said Yibi had written a book about coping with the illness which they plan to publish one day.
Mrs Matthews said: “Yibi was incredibly brave. I think many people didn't know how much he suffered and how really, really brave he was. We were so proud to say he was our son - to know him was to love him.”