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 Health  Uganda Project #30684

Stop the Cycle of HIV: Support Women and Children!

by Alive Medical Services
Stop the Cycle of HIV: Support Women and Children!
Stop the Cycle of HIV: Support Women and Children!
Stop the Cycle of HIV: Support Women and Children!
Stop the Cycle of HIV: Support Women and Children!
Stop the Cycle of HIV: Support Women and Children!
Stop the Cycle of HIV: Support Women and Children!
Stop the Cycle of HIV: Support Women and Children!
Stop the Cycle of HIV: Support Women and Children!
Little Lucy during a scheduled appointment at AMS
Little Lucy during a scheduled appointment at AMS

My name is Juliet and I am a 33-year-old mother of 4. My husband, children and I live in Luzira and three of us have been clients of Alive Medical Services (AMS) since 2011. I have been aware of my HIV-status since 2003 and had been getting my medication elsewhere although the supply was always unpredictable, so I did not have proper adherence. The reason I came to AMS was because of my third child, 5-year-old Lucia who at the time was only 3 months old. She had been terribly sick for about a month and we had run out of options.

Actually, we had emotionally prepared ourselves for her death. At the time, we lived in Namuwongo but did not know that we were very close to where our hope would be renewed, at AMS. An elderly woman who was our close neighbour realized our distress and directed us to the clinic. I immediately got the first boda-boda (motorbike) with my daughter to AMS.

On reaching the clinic, we were given priority and at that moment, I regained hope in saving my daughter’s life. After the emergency medical care had been given and realizing that she too was HIV-positive, the doctors got us a car and a reference letter in hand to Mulago hospital. We first despaired because we could not afford the private medical care but AMS’ Director Dr Pasquine not only gave me a reference letter; she made some calls to ease our way in getting the medical care that was beyond AMS. This I only discovered later as indeed we were given good medical attention while at Mulago hospital.

My daughter was on oxygen support for about 2 weeks and during this time we got care supplies from Mwama Mugimu, a wellness company that was partnering with AMS at the time. A team of doctors made sure that the oxygen tank did not run dry at any moment and my husband and I kept watch over her while taking turns.

Today, I look at Lucia, my 5-year-old daughter and I acknowledge that she is a miracle that Alive Medical Services helped to happen. I would have been grieving my child but, instead, I gladly share my happiness with others. My husband, daughter and I come regularly for medical care since the rest of our children are HIV-negative. I am forever grateful to AMS for all the love and care towards my family, especially my baby girl Lucia.

Through the maternal and child health services like antenatal care and elimination of mother-to-child services offered at Alive Medical Services, Juliet has been able to have another baby that is HIV-negative. It with immense gratitude that we share such stories of hope that are only made possible by donors like you. And with your continued support, we can ensure that the little ones like Lucy are born HIV-free.

We speak for countless women and children whose lives you impact when we say thank you!

Juliet, Lucy
Juliet, Lucy's mother and her baby brother
Sister Florence, a nurse at AMS, hugs little Lucy
Sister Florence, a nurse at AMS, hugs little Lucy
A laboratory technologist draws  blood
A laboratory technologist draws blood

Building an HIV-free Generation – How the EMTCT Programme transformed a mother’s life

Clare, a resident of Kyebando learnt of Alive Medical Services (AMS) through her mother who is also a recipient of care at AMS. This was five years ago. She was first made aware of her HIV status when she was in primary school. Clare was born with HIV and she rejected treatment for some time because of fear of stigma and the routine of taking medicine.

“For the time I spent off medicine, I resorted to self-medication where I would buy sceptrin from drug shops and take, thinking that this would help me somehow.” She remembers falling sick one day and that’s when her older sister and her mother insisted on bringing her to AMS where she has been getting her treatment since then. “I had also acquired TB at the time and therefore was started on double treatment when I was enrolled into care here.”

Clare is now a mother of three through the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (EMTCT) program and all her babies are free from HIV. ‘I came here and explained to the health workers that I was pregnant. They fully supported me and started me on treatment to keep my baby from getting the virus.” She says that the treatment has helped her family especially her HIV negative partner from acquiring the virus.

Though she admits that it is difficult to reveal her status to her partner, Clare agrees to the fact that it is important for her partner to know her status. ‘He does not know that I am getting treatment from here. I am sure he is HIV negative because he has tested for HIV several times and I am also virally suppressed. In addition, I am afraid that when he learns about my status, I might lose my family forever.” Clare recalls losing her first family because of that and that’s why she wants to take her time before telling her husband about her status. In the meantime, the AMS counsellors are going through sessions with her to disclose to her partner in the most convenient and delicate way with their active involvement in the process.

Clare’s family is healthy and faring well in terms of raising her children. “My first born is in school and I will soon be enrolling the second one in school as well who is three years old now. I am ready and want to live for my boys. I want to give them an education and a quality life.” “I might give birth to another baby after these ones have been enrolled in school,” Clare adds.

The 32-year-old shop attendant reveals that she was always off work because of sickness. “It was after I resumed treatment that I thought of conceiving because I felt better and strong. This did not take away the fears of giving birth to an HIV positive baby. But when I spoke to musawo (Health worker) and she said I could have a child free from HIV, my hope was restored.”

Clare is happily attending to her business of running electronics shop near the old taxi park in Kampala. ‘I want to work for my family and ensure that my sons and husband remain HIV negative.”

Clare continuously hails the care, support and hope she received through the EMTCT program, “My greatest joy is that my sons are alive and HIV free. I don’t know how to express my gratitude for that; Thank you AMS. I cannot even imagine skipping my treatment because I now have what to live for; my sons.”

 

All HIV-positive pregnant women given ANC services
All HIV-positive pregnant women given ANC services

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Vivian crowned the Miss Young Positives 2018/2019
Vivian crowned the Miss Young Positives 2018/2019

On Friday 23rd November 2018, Vivian Nabanoba was crowned Miss Y+ (Young HIV Positive) in the UNYPA (Uganda Network for Young People Living with HIV) Y+ Pageant at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel.

Vivian now 24 years of age lived a normal life, raised by her mother who managed to put her through school to attain an education through to higher learning at university. She also balanced school with her work at her mother’s restaurant. On a clear path to becoming successful in life, Vivian had nothing to worry about.

Vivian dated a young man for a long time and had always asked him to go and get themselves tested for HIV together, but all in vain. “If it wasn’t a football match it was always something else for him to not go,” Vivian shared.

“Two months down the road, I tested for HIV and turned out positive. It was the darkest day of my life. I did not know what to do, all I knew was that I was going to die a very painful death. All I pictured for my future was death and the things that I didn’t get the opportunity to do. I got on my knees and asked the doctor to check again. When I went home and saw my mum, I burst into tears and she instantly knew the results were not good,” Vivian painfully recalls.

The experience of stigma became a reality for Vivian when she found out that her then-boyfriend had let everyone at the university know of her HIV status. “Friends eluded me, no one spoke to me. I picked up some habits, I started to drink alcohol, going to bars all night, smoking cigarettes and subsequently stopped going to school but always lied to my mum that I was going.”

Fast forward, she meets another young man who really liked her, after one thing leading to the other, she gathered the courage to disclose to him about her HIV status. He agreed to get tested and recommended Alive Medical Services. “That was my introduction to AMS. The counsellors were nice and respectful and treated us with respect. I received an appointment, but I did not honour it but due to the good experience I had, I came back. I met a youth and children counsellor who introduced me to the Victors’ Club where I met young people who had the very same struggles that I had. They each had their own story and were happily living with them. I felt at home among them, and that was when I was initiated on antiretroviral treatment.” Vivian recalls.

Since then, Vivian went back to school to complete her degree, had her daughter who is HIV negative due to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (EMTCT) and early infant diagnosis (EID) programmes here AMS.

I am grateful to Alive Medical Services and all I can say is thank you. I have learnt everything I know from here. This place has been home and will forever be home to me. I have developed a whole new meaning to life.

Vivian participates in peer-led activities at AMS
Vivian participates in peer-led activities at AMS
Vivian participates in a community dialogue at AMS
Vivian participates in a community dialogue at AMS

Links:

Sarah
Sarah

“My life was perfect,” Sarah* reflects. “I grew up with my parents in a wealthy neighbourhood and lacked for nothing. I went to the finest schools and even attend college abroad.”

When Sarah returned home with a degree in statistics, she felt like everything was falling into place. “I met a man who swept me off my feet. He did everything right and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him,” she recounted. Soon after the two were married and blessed with three children.

But slowly, things started going wrong. Her children were constantly sick and frequently in the hospital. They were treated for all sorts of infections but never seemed to get back on their feet completely. Her husband had also been in and out of the hospital. He had special doctors that looked after him that Sarah new nothing about.

“One day as I cleaned the bedroom, I found medicine in his drawer and became curious because we kept all our medicines in the bathroom cabinet. When I read the label I didn’t understand it, so I put it back and went about my day.”

“When I got to work that day, curiosity got the best of me. I went researched the drugs in the cabinet and discovered it was medication for people infected with HIV. My heart was pounding so fast. I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t fathom the fact that my husband was HIV positive and never told me.”

“I called him immediately to ask if he was HIV positive. He said he wasn’t. He explained it away by saying the medication was given to him by his doctors as a trial drug for his medical condition.”

Unconvinced, Sarah went to her husband’s doctor and though he wasn’t at liberty to share his client’s information with her, she asked him to have a conversation with her husband. “It was then that I began to ask myself the tough questions – what if he is positive? My children, my health, what would become of us and our marriage?” She thought.

When she took her children to get tested, the results returned her greatest fears confirmed. She and all her little ones were infected. “I broke down in tears, I wanted to die. I even begged the doctor to check again and be sure.”

“With little strength, I called my parents and asked them to pick me up from the hospital. When we reached home, while my parents packed the children’s bags, I went to speak to my husband. He still denied to my face until I showed him our results, then he started to cry and said he did everything right to make sure the children and I never contracted the disease. I asked him if he knew he was positive before we got married, to which he said ‘yes,’” Sarah recalls with tears in her eyes.

After 13 years of marriage, Sarah left her husband and moved to her parents’ home with her children. It was from there that she was introduced to Alive Medical Services (AMS). “My children and I were received with so much care, they looked at us not as victims but as a family. My children have an amazing time when we come to receive our medication and to check our viral load, they never want to leave,” Sarah says.

“Over time I have learnt to live with this new reality and am now back on my feet. I am grateful to AMS for the love and care they have shown to me and my children. If it wasn’t for AMS, I know not what would have become of us.”

Sarah is now an advocate for women who are HIV positive and encourages others to get tested – even if they’re married.

Thank you for keeping Alive Medical Services and our clients in your hearts.

*Name and images in this story have been changed to protect the client’s identity.

Evelyn
Evelyn

“If only my mother had taken her medication and followed the doctors’ advice diligently, I would have been born HIV free.” Evelyn, who is now 15 years old and in primary six, says as we ventured into her life story that she was open to share.

“I was born with HIV, but my mother didn’t disclose my status to me until I was 10 years old. I thought she was joking as I was too young to fathom what she had told me. But not long after she fell very ill and was taken to Mulago Hospital where the counsellor delivering the results confirmed her fears -- she was HIV positive. From then on, she swallowed her medicine as instructed.”

Evelyn’s mother eventually succumbed to the disease and passed away in 2015. With nowhere else to go at the time, she was forced to live with her aunt who made her life impossible. She stigmatized her, reminded her about her condition daily and told her to stay away from her children.

Evelyn kept her status a secret from her cousins with the fear that they would be afraid of her. However, it did not stay a secret for long; her aunt went on to let everyone know she was HIV positive. She even informed Evelyn’s teachers who eventually told the students.

“I had no friends because everyone was afraid to play with me or even talk to me. I spent most of my time reading,” Evelyn says. The stigma overwhelmed her, and she begged to live elsewhere. Lucky for her, her grandparents and her father took her in and made her feel welcome. Her grandparents protected her but were too old to provide enough.

“When I came to AMS I was surprised at how they cared for me and how welcoming they were to me. They fed me, gave me medicine and renewed my hope in living positively. One of the counsellors told me that if I did everything right, I would live a long and healthy life.”

Soon after Evelyn joined the Victors Club where she took part in activities for the youth and children which made her feel at home. “At AMS we look after each other like family. In the Victors Club we advise each other, dance and share all we have together.  During the youth days we celebrate life and enjoy being young while learning more about how to take care of ourselves as young people living with HIV.”

When asked what advice she would give to others, Evelyn said, “I would advise mothers who are HIV positive to adhere to their medication and to do all they can to keep their children from contracting HIV.”

And most importantly, “Take your medication and do not allow stigma to wear you down.”

As for the future, Evelyn shared, “I want to become a doctor so that I can help the children living with HIV just like Alive Medical Services has helped me.”

Just like Evelyn, all adolescent girls and young women living with HIV who come to AMS are not only given free holistic HIV care, but they are also empowered with knowledge and given services on sexual and reproductive health to ensure that an HIV-free generation is not only a dream. All this and more has been made possible through generous donors like you and for that, the Alive Medical Services family thanks you.

 

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Organization Information

Alive Medical Services

Location: Kampala - Uganda
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AMSUganda
Project Leader:
Pasquine Ogunsanya
Founder and Executive Director
Kampala, Uganda
$59,396 raised of $85,000 goal
 
165 donations
$25,604 to go
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