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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!
Rachel with her Jjajja and AMS members
Rachel with her Jjajja and AMS members

“My name is Rachel (not real name), I used to live with jjajja in Salaama but I now live at FoodStep Uganda in Entebbe. I am not certain of my age because I have never celebrated any birthday ever, but jjajja says I am about 11 years old, that is all. She never tells when I was born, possibly because she does not remember. 

Jjajja and I did not have enough food, and we never used to eat well, basically, it was posho with beans or silverfish “mukene” which was not always sufficient. Sometimes we went hungry for days and yet we were on daily medication. It would get very depressing when we did not have food to eat. This caused my Viral load to go up hence never suppressing making it easy for me to get many illnesses and infections. In July 2020, I was not well which led to admission for over two weeks. I thought I was going to die.

The health workers at the clinic got interested in why I was not getting discharged from the centre. Then came aunty Winnie (a pharmacy attendant) and Peace (a peer educator) who wanted to get to the bottom and realised I wasn't having enough food and took it upon themselves to make sure I ate the right food during my stay at the centre. They then linked me to Foodstep Uganda, a home where I can get the health and physical guidance to live a healthy life. At Foodstep Uganda they will be able to provide the services I need because my grandmother cannot.

After consulting my grandmother and gaining consent for the support, I officially joined Food Steps Uganda on the 30th of July 2020.

At Food Steps Uganda, I have met so many people, aunty Aisha, aunty Annette, papa, mama. Everyone is nice, friendly and we even eat well. The food is really nice all the time, especially my favourite, matooke and rice. The best part is the home-schooling part and I love it a lot, I know that if school begins, I will be able to join school since I can at least write my name.” 

Ever since Rachel joined FoodStep Uganda, she is happy and healthy. She takes her medication without any fear of hunger.  When she came back to the clinic, the girl who could barely answer to a simple question like “How are you?'' is now ready to respond to all questions with a smile on her face.

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Joy extending a helping hand at the pharmacy
Joy extending a helping hand at the pharmacy

Joy (not real name) is a 19-year-old peer educator working at Alive Medical Services. She is a young lady who was miraculously chosen by a foreign lady (Natalie) in 2007 during one of her visits in prisons where she used to explore and engage with street children. On this specific visit, Natalie noticed a group of young children in the prisons cell and felt drawn to Joy, she asked for her file and any form of information they had on her. She also asked about the procedure it would take for her to take Joy into her care.

Joy, 8 years old at the time didn’t know anything about her family nor had she heard from or of her parents and since there was no one to claim her, the process for Natalie to become her legal guardian was a successful one, she finally got a family.

After a series of being sick and sessions at Mulago hospital, Joy and her new foster mother Natalie did not know exactly what was happening with her health. She decided to consult a friend who referred her to Alive Medical Services, she was looking forward to getting free treatment at AMS.  Joy received several tests, the first one being an HIV test which confirmed she was HIV positive and the reason why she was getting ill more often. Joy was then started on ARVS.

She continued to take her medication all through school until high school when she stopped because she was confused about why she should take medicine indefinitely. After a while, she started getting sick because of not taking her medication.

 “In my high school days, we learned about STIs where the teacher mentioned most of the signs and symptoms of HIV and I happened to have one physical sign, the skin rash,” Joy sadly said.

Joy had an irritating skin rash and her fellow students saw her taking medication daily, which led them to become suspicious of what illness she might have, making her even more uncomfortable. She was now even more depressed than usual and was finally sent home to seek medical attention as her illness seemed to be getting worse. Once home, she confided in her foster mother about her insecurities, this paved way for them to return to AMS as she realised it was time to disclose to Joy the actual status of her health.

At AMS she met with Dr Elizabeth who was very professional at handling her case, she explained to her what it meant to be HIV positive and why she had been told to take her medication, the benefits of taking it more effectively. She remembers the first weeks being the toughest, but with the support from her foster mother, she was able to cope.

AMS has become more than the family, friends, and parents she has ever wished to have. “AMS embraces you the way you are, at some facilities, you go pick your drugs and that’s it. The rest is usually not their business”. Joy acknowledges.

Joy is glad she was chosen among the young people at the centre to train and become a peer educator at AMS, and this is giving her plenty of opportunities like sharing her story, attending summits, conferences as well as visiting other facilities, being able to interact with other peers on their daily challenges. Most of all she has become more confident and is not lost in the self-stigma that had built up during her high school days. She is very hardworking, easy to talk to with a dream to improve her life and grab onto future opportunities.

Joy is now a peer network coordinator who is using her story and life experiences to change lives and she is grateful to AMS staff for the endless support and unconditional love with all adequate services available all the time. She wants to work so hard and facilitate herself for further education in Public health so that she can help people who have gone through the same experience. She also wants to own an orphanage for abandoned children so she can be able to give back to the community especially those on the streets.

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Sara and her two lovely children.
Sara and her two lovely children.

Sara (not real name), a 28-year-old single mother of two boys, works as a housemaid for an Indian family and resides in Kanyogoga, a slum area in Namuwongo. Sara joined Alive Medical Services in 2010 after a series of what seemed like signs of HIV. She had a skin rash, an irritating cough and she was consistently losing weight, these were all signs of HIV according to what people said. She used to escort her friend who was already in care at Alive Medical Services for drug refills. Her friend kept on encouraging her to test as she showed some of the signs of HIV. Sara was at first afraid to take that step of knowing her HIV status as she was a breastfeeding mother of a 17-months-old baby. She courageously took the test and the result was positive as she had suspected. 

“I was at first traumatised about the news; I was even afraid to tell the counsellor that I had a breastfeeding child at home ("Naka were") and when I told my husband, he left me with the child,” Sara said sadly.

Sara did not disclose to the health worker that she had a baby before she confirmed her status. As her child grew up, he repeatedly fell ill and then developed a skin rash at 5 years; not to mention the child has a mental disability and is deaf. “I felt like he already had so much to deal with, but I had no choice”.  She then decided to bring him for medical attention where they suggested for an HIV test. Sadly, the result turned out positive.

Sara felt hopeless because she did not have any psychosocial support and her friend had died. She got the courage to disclose to her mother after five years as she could no longer handle the situation by herself. Fortunately, her mother was supportive, compassionate and she has never been judgemental towards her daughter.

From the day Sara found out her HIV status, she has gotten the best counselling and health tips especially on the importance of having a balanced diet. Sara regained hope, self-love through all the support offered at Alive Medical Services, from food to medication and she is more stable now and managed to get a job where she earns fair pay which she didn’t expect once her life had taken a turn. “Even if my child barely speaks or hears, he usually looks at the clock and when it clicks 8:00 pm, he taps me as a reminder and gives me the sign that it’s time for medication, the only challenge will be disclosing to him in such a situation when he gets older”.

Sara restored her life back and had a second baby who was under the guidance of the health workers in the EMTCT section at the clinic. Her second child is happy, healthy and HIV-negative.

For all these years she has spent on medication, Sara would love to thank the whole staff of Alive Medical Services especially the lady in the EMTCT section (Linda) who has been very supportive; “she tells the truth of what will happen if you do it the way you are told to do and she will show and help you how to do it the right way”.

Mwebale nyo, mwebalilire ddala.

(Thank you so much)

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Carol at the Victor's club.
Carol at the Victor's club.

In primary 5, young as she was, Carol (not real name) a 26-year-old young lady currently residing in Namasuba was taken to the hospital by her aunt as she noticed she was getting sickly after 5 years since the death of her mother. Carol was taken to a clinic in Naguru where she was diagnosed with HIV after a blood test. She was still very young and vulnerable, devasted and hopeless with life. She was started on medication but by that time it was on sale and seemed expensive. Lucky enough, she had sponsors that catered and gave her a helping hand. As time passed, this cost became too high for them to handle so they started looking for an alternative way to support her.

In 2011, one of her sponsors found out about Alive Medical Services and she was transferred there. Not only was AMS offering ARVs, but all services were free of charge including monthly nutrition food provisions that took a load off from the burden of the sponsors. They however, continued to provide her school tuition and upkeep.

“Alive Medical Services was and is still one of a kind, a home away from home I must say. I thought I was the only one but when I met the young people in the Victor’s club, and most of all one of the leaders Nabula Edith Lukoma, I swear my life has never been the same!”

With the support and encouragement from Victor’s club here at AMS, Carol managed to cope, especially with the irritating side effects from the medication like heat all over her body, endless nausea. She persisted to stay on the medication as advised by the health workers and it has paid off. She was trained as a peer educator in psychosocial support, music trainer here at AMS and ever since then, she is proud of sharing her story with the community

Carol is now a mother of two lovely children, a boy and a girl and through our AMS EMTCT services, they are healthy, happy and most of all HIV negative.

She has learnt so much from the facility and touched so many lives in the process.                                                     

“I am so grateful to AMS staff and donors that make this happen, I love my life, my kids and my medication. Sometimes it gets hard, but that’s the circle of life, I believe everyone goes through depressing and stressing times irrespective of their status.”

Since then, Carol has never looked back and is currently breaking boundaries, she is travelling to Nairobi for her new job. She has a plan to travel back every three months to refill her medication.

It’s because of generous partners like you that AMS can help the youth. Your support is critical to ensuring children are born HIV-negative – and you are playing an integral role in halting the spread of HIV, and keeping families safe. For that, we are incredibly grateful. Thank you so very much!

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Mary with her healthy and HIV-negative Lillian
Mary with her healthy and HIV-negative Lillian

In 2013, Mary came to Alive Medical Services for a check-up. She had a fever and was hoping to see a doctor, receive some medicine, and head back home. Mary thought she only had a passing illness, but just to be safe, she decided to be tested for a number of things anyway.

When the doctor returned with Mary’s results, he told her something she would never have imagined: Mary, though married for years to the same person, was HIV positive.

“I was in such a bad state,” Mary said. “I just came into the clinic to get checked for a fever, and then I found out I had HIV.”

Terrified her husband would blame her for the illness, she didn’t say a thing until he developed a rash on his arms. Mary insisted he get tested for HIV, and when her husband came home with a positive diagnosis, he told her the truth. He had not been completely faithful in their marriage.

At that point, Mary found out she was pregnant with their third child, the first to be conceived after Mary realized her positive diagnosis. She hurried to AMS as soon as she found out she was expecting.

“The doctors helped me maintain good adherence throughout the pregnancy, following up with me as the months went by,” Mary said.

Within months, Mary’s husband left her for someone else. Regardless of his repeated deceit, Mary stayed strong. She kept up with her medication, came to the clinic for frequent check-ups, and focused on delivering a healthy, HIV negative baby.

After nine months of pre-natal care at AMS, and a year-and-a-half of check-ups post-birth, AMS doctors confirmed Mary’s daughter – Lillian – was HIV negative.

Today, Lillian is nearly 2 years old. Mary is in good health, and continues to come to AMS for her antiretroviral medication and regular check-ups. In addition, her family receives treatment of other infections – opportunistic or otherwise – free of charge.

“At first, I was so worried about having HIV,” Mary said. “But today, I’m okay. I’ve accepted it. And I’m well aware that if I take my medication well, I’ll continue to live.”

Through your support, more babies like Lillian can be born and raised HIV-free. We are striving to create an HIV/AIDS-free generation and the future looks bright with your helping hand. We speak for countless adolescent girls, young women, mothers and children when we say, thank 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
$60,908 raised of $85,000 goal
 
214 donations
$24,092 to go
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