HIV positive mothers with their healthy babies
Kop ango? or "How are you" in Luo, the local language of Northern Uganda!
GlobeMed at Columbia's Grassroots On-site Work (GROW) team returned last week from their internship in Gulu. Our team was working with Gulu Women's Economic Development and Globalization (GWED-G) to evaluate our current project and develop our project for next year. However, our experience transcended that of just working there. We were able to form deep friendships with the GWED-G staff and really connect with the beneficiaries of our HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention project.
While in Gulu, we went out to rural villages almost every day to meet beneficiaries and engage with them about their lives. Meeting the HIV positive mothers and their healthy children was extremely moving. We were especially touched by the story of Beatrice, an HIV positive woman who has been working with GWED-G since 2007. When GWED-G staff first met Beatrice, she was in the throes of HIV. She was hiding in her house, not able to get up and reach a hospital because she was too weak to walk to the nearest health center, which was some kilometers away. GWED-G staff took her blood and realized that her CD4 count was seven. A CD4 cell is a type of white blood cell that fights infection and is targeted by the HIV virus. Beatrice's CD4 count meant that she only had seven of this type of white blood cell in each cubic milliliter of her blood. A normal number of CD4 cells is 500 to 1,500. Having only seven would yield your body with no weapons to fight infection. Thankfully for Beatrice, she had met the right people because she was able to start antiretrovirals soon afterwards. After getting treatment, Beatrice approached her local health center, wanting to do something to help others who were suffering like she had. She took on the voluntary job of community health worker, spreading awareness and counseling HIV positive patients. She is now the chairman of her Village Health Team, a group of 20 community health workers, and often travels with GWED-G campaigns to impart her knowledge on others.
Beatrice is only one of the women, men, and youth who are beneficiaries of our project. There are many like Beatrice who learn from GWED-G and then spread this education to others. Men from youth groups spread their knowledge by playing cards with their peers, or traveling household to household. HIV positive mothers educate fellow mothers about preventing transmission of the virus to their babies. This is not because they have to, but because they feel that everyone in their community should have the same knowledge they have.
GlobeMed at Columbia's project is truly making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable people in Northern Uganda. Your contributions to our project made this happen, and we hope you continue to support ours and GWED-G's work, whether it is through donations or in thought. And check out our GROW team's blog below to learn more about what they did on the ground in Gulu and how their experiences affected them today.
Beatrice, the chairman of the Village Health Team
GROW team with the Palema parish Youth Group
Beatrice working at an HIV blood screening
The 2012 GROW team with GWED-G staff at the office