Improving HIV Treatment with Nutrition Support

by Alive Medical Services
Improving HIV Treatment with Nutrition Support
Improving HIV Treatment with Nutrition Support
Improving HIV Treatment with Nutrition Support
Improving HIV Treatment with Nutrition Support
Esther and Sharidah at their check-up at AMS.
Esther and Sharidah at their check-up at AMS.

Twice a month, food is laid outside the doors of AMS. As the clinic swells with patients, doctors walk from left to right, advocating for proper eating practices and spreading nutrition information. One by one, AMS’ community health workers call out clients’ names, all of whom have been previously measured for severe food insecurity and malnourishment. After nurses assess their health status, each client receives seven kilograms of rice, seven kilograms of beans, two kilograms of sugar, and a bag of fresh vegetables.

One of those clients is Esther, a 35-year-old HIV-positive mother and a patient at AMS. Esther’s partner left her a year ago, making it nearly impossible to juggle her job – selling roasted meat alongside the roads of Kampala – with the care of her one-month-old baby, Sharidah, and two other children.

Without her partner’s support, Esther’s income dwindled; she could no longer afford to eat properly. Her breastmilk began to run out, causing Sharidah to lose weight drastically and rapidly.

“At one point, my children would wake up every morning with no food on the table,” Esther said. “Sharidah was so weak, and so was I. I didn’t know what to do.”

On her next visit, AMS staff took note of Sharidah’s weight loss. AMS enrolled the family in AMS' food program, and baby was started on food aid while Esther was educated on proper infant feeding practices. In the four months since then, Sharidah’s health has greatly improved: she’s gained nearly four kilograms, and smiles and laughs easily. She's even gained enough strength to stand and walk on her own.

Sharidah’s recovery – and Esther’s hope – would never have been possible without the unwavering support of partners like you. Your generosity helped AMS surpass our target goal for the Improving HIV Treatment with Nutrition Support project, allowing us to reach thousands of mothers, fathers, and individuals like Esther and Sharidah. 

Once Sharidah’s weight stabilizes, the family will be phased out of the food program. Regardless, AMS will continue to support them through other initiatives. Over 300 HIV-positive clients are engaged in our gardening program, for example, which is made up of 18 different gardening clubs. By teaching clients how to plant, grow, harvest and sell their own crops, we are helping clients raise their incomes (and eat healthy foods) in a sustainable way.

While we will continue to seek support to strengthen our nutrition project, we hope you know how appreciative we are of the work you’ve helped us accomplish. Thank you so much for your compassion.

“Because of AMS, I have high hopes for the future,” Esther said. “HIV – and my other challenges – cannot bring me down.”

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Angela* had lived with HIV for years before her partner found her anti-retroviral medication. Angela’s partner was physically abusive, controlling and overpowering, and she was terrified of what he would do upon discovering her status.

“After he found out I was HIV-positive, he kept telling me I was going to die,” Angela said. “He abused me and left me with one 4-year-old daughter and a newborn baby.”

Without her partner’s support, Angela had no one to turn to but Alive Medical Services (AMS). She had been a patient for years; in fact, AMS was the first clinic Angela visited after realizing she was HIV positive more than 10 years ago. At the time, Angela was suffering from both HIV and tuberculosis, and thought she had no chance at survival. However, after months of treatment, continued support, and three blood transfusions, Angela made a full recovery.

Such a success is why Angela has remained a patient at AMS, and why she signed up for AMS’ nutrition program when her partner left her years later. Instead of spending all her money on food, Angela can now use the little income she receives to pay her children’s school fees and invest in her small business. Though she currently sells bananas on the road, one day, she hopes to set up her own produce stand at a local market.

Your contributions toward this project are helping people like Angela invest in something sustainable, increasing their capacity to move forward after a difficult time. This type of support is critical, as Angela – though finally free of her abusive partner – is now facing the challenge of raising two young children on her own. Without food, Angela added, adhering to her anti-retroviral treatment would be impossible, as she gets dizzy and weak when she takes the medication without sustenance.

Angela is a survivor. Not only has she battled HIV and domestic violence, but she is struggling to lift her small family out of poverty. Your support has allowed for patients like Angela to keep fighting, ensuring proper adherence to their medication and helping their entire families stay healthy and strong. We are so grateful for your generosity towards AMS’ nutrition program, as it is only through partners like you that such an initiative is possible.

“Without AMS, I wouldn’t be alive today,” Angela said.

* indicates name has been changed for the individual's privacy

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Clients take away food on bi-weekly AMS food days
Clients take away food on bi-weekly AMS food days

It is often easy to overlook nutrition when thinking of the topic of HIV/AIDS. Proper adherence to antiretroviral (ARV) medication is extremely important, and ARVs do not get absorbed into the bloodstream well without proper nutrition. This lessens the effectiveness of treatment, letting HIV weaken malnourished clients’ immune systems sometimes to the verge of death. Therefore, AMS emphasizes nutrition heavily, taking every measure to determine who is malnourished and ensure that they receive food through our food program. 

Mohammed’s story reminds us of how essential proper nutrition is for HIV treatment, and of how easily HIV can thrive under a state of malnourishment. It also reminds us of the miracles that happen through AMS’s holistic care.

Mohammed is an AMS client who first came to AMS in 2007 when his CD4 count was only 13. The CD4 count is an indicator of immune system function, and in healthy people, the average CD4 count ranges from 500 to 1,500. Additionally, Mohammed only weighed 37 kg (81 pounds) when he first arrived at AMS. As evident by these numbers, HIV had taken advantage of Mohammed’s severe malnourishment, and had weakened his immune system to the point of near-death. He arrived at AMS right on time, and was put on food support immediately. Through the food that AMS gave him bi-weekly, Mohammed received proper nutrition and regained his health. Now, his CD4 count is 459 and his weight is 64 kg (141 pounds).

Over time, we have seen Mohammed become empowered and transform into a leader. Together with another client, he raised awareness about AMS in his faraway community of Kapeeka. Beginning with just 10 clients, the Kapeeka group of clients has slowly grown to exceed 300. By taking gardening courses at AMS, Mohammed then helped pioneer the Kapeeka gardening group, the largest income-generating gardening group at AMS. Members of this group produce fresh vegetables and fruits for themselves and to earn an income. Mohammed is a true AMS ambassador, also providing other HIV-positive people with a stigma-free space to disclose their status so that he can connect them to AMS.

“God knows what AMS is,” says Mohammed, “AMS was the one who let me be strong and live positively.”

We are grateful for being able to offer the essential component of nutrition as a central part of our holistic HIV care package. We are even more grateful for you, our donors, who have enabled us to continue providing these life-saving services for 10 years so far! This is only the beginning, and it is with you that we can help clients like Mohammed to regain health and dignity. For that, we are thankful and hopeful!

Mohammed, a AMS client who used to be malnourished
Mohammed, a AMS client who used to be malnourished
Mohammed (front) & Kapeeka gardeners with produce
Mohammed (front) & Kapeeka gardeners with produce

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Clients and staff demonstrating water purification
Clients and staff demonstrating water purification

Without access to proper nutrition, HIV/AIDS care is incomplete and ineffective. Complete nutrition allows proper function of the body, and strengthens the immune system to regulate disease. Water forms the foundation ofproper nutrition, as this is the medium in which all bodily processes occur. This is the reason we at Alive Medical Services (AMS) say “water is life!” a message that we are echoing across the world on this March 22nd, World Water Day.

As part of AMS’s holistic HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment to our tens of thousands of clients, we have committed to providing clients with clean and safe drinking water. Clean water is essential to HIV/AIDS care for proper medication adherence, absorption of nutrients and medication, maintenance of hydration and strength, and prevention of water-borne opportunistic infections such as typhoid and diarrhea. To provide this essential component of our Nutrition Support Program, Proctor & Gamble (P&G) generously donates free water purification packets to our clients. These packets are easy-to-use, compact, and powerful tools that purify water and greatly impact clients’ health, and in 2016 alone, these packets reached 7,720 beneficiaries! We are grateful for P&G for their life-saving support, and for donors like you who allow us to continue providing holistic care to clients.

Alex is one of AMS’s pioneer clients, who for the last five years has been making 42-mile journeys to AMS for HIV treatment and to pick up P&G packets for his 15 family members who benefit from them. Prior to treating his water, access to clean water for his family was scarce. However, since using P&G packets, he has saved money by not having to purchase firewood to boil water, and incidents of his children getting burnt from the boiled water has reduced. Importantly, cases of diarrhea in his family has also declined.

When he started treating his water at home, his neighbors became curious and came over to watch him purify water. As interest in his water increased, Alex began to collect additional P&G packets for his neighbors during his visits to AMS. Alex is a safe drinking water advocate and actively assists AMS in giving P&G packet use demonstrations and health talks during his AMS visits. When asked why he chooses to spread the word, Alex replies “Water is life. I love people and I want them to be healthy and I want everyone to benefit from this clean water.”

On this March 22nd, we celebrate World Water Day with Alex and other such clients whose lives have changed for the better due to access to safe drinking water and proper nutrition. As we exceed 10 years of service this year, AMS hopes to team with you to impact many more lives in the next decade and more to come. Thank you for your continued support in safeguarding our clients’ health!

Alex with P&G packets that he takes home from AMS
Alex with P&G packets that he takes home from AMS
Alex giving clients a water sanitation health talk
Alex giving clients a water sanitation health talk

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Smiling clients in an AMS income-generating group
Smiling clients in an AMS income-generating group

Dear Friends,

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season! Thank you for your continued generosity  during the giving season! As we wrap up 2016, we have 10 days until the completion of our Nutrition Support GlobalGivingUK End-Of-Year Fundraising Campaign. You still have a chance to give! Every bit helps us towards receiving bonus prizes of 4,500 GBP from GlobalGivingUK and we are very grateful for your support. 

In 2016, our Kapeeka group DOUBLED their number of gardens to a total of 12 gardens. With the help of your continued support, the Kapeeka group hopes to help create a new gardening group in 2017 in Mpuga, a community where HIV/AIDS persists widely. The funds raised on GlobalGiving will enable the Kapeeka group to purchase seeds, fertilizer, gardening tools, water tanks, and travel to Mpuga where they will share their success stories, best gardening practices, and financial skills to inspire a new group of AMS gardeners while building leadership skills and friendships. The Kapeeka group, alongside AMS, cannot wait to start getting our hands dirty in more gardens. Are you with us?

The Kapeeka group’s roots go back to a client namedNakayondo Proscovia, known at AMS as Mama Kapeeka. She, a mother of 4 and grandmother of 3, had been suffering with HIV since 2004 and came to AMS in 2006 as the first person to come to AMS from Kapeeka. During her time at AMS, she told the staff about the number of people suffering from HIV/AIDS in Kapeeka. Together with AMS, Mama Kapeeka decided to refer more people to AMS when she returned to Kapeeka, and these Kapeeka clients eventually formed the psychosocial and income-generation group that is now the Kapeeka group. This group now gardens and sells back to AMS the food that they cultivated in their gardening, allowing them to earn an income. This new positivity in the group’s lives additionally empowered them against HIV/AIDS. Our very own Mama Kapeeka has gone from a CD4 count of 9, to now 860! Now with a low viral load, she is doing well and has withdrawn from the nutrition program so that other clients can benefit. She continues to come to AMS regularly for medicine not only for herself, but also for about 300 others in Kapeeka who are living positively with HIV. “AMS takes care of us so well that if there is any pain at all, they will take care of it. It is just up to us to disclose what we need,” she says. AMS is truly honored to serve community leaders like Mama Kapeeka!  

Thank you for your continued generosity and service to our clients, and here is to a beautiful and successful 2017! 

With much love from the AMS Family,

Dr Pasquine N Ogunsanya

The Kapeeka group brings AMS Christmas gifts
The Kapeeka group brings AMS Christmas gifts
Mama Kapeeka, the founder of the Kapeeka group
Mama Kapeeka, the founder of the Kapeeka group

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Organization Information

Alive Medical Services

Location: Kampala - Uganda
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AMSUganda
Project Leader:
Heather Zimmerman
Kampala, Uganda

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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