| May 25, 2023
MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MATTERS TOO IN HIV CARE
"I was told that I needed to see a therapist, which I found strange, and I was worried that I was going insane. But when I eventually sat down with them, it was like a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders." *Jalia's testimony
In Uganda, a recent meta-analysis found a depression prevalence of 31 per cent among people living with HIV, and 15.5 per cent alone are women. Mental health is important. People living with HIV will still experience the full depth and breadth of strong human emotions. This can affect ones self-esteem and silence ones hope for a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life.
42-year-old Jalia transferred from another hospital to Alive Medical Services in 2011 because of her transportation expenses and a new environment. Jalia started experiencing symptoms of depression such as persistent tiredness, weight loss, insomnia, cramps, and physical pains. Jalia shared a home with her sister and three children. After her sister went to work in the Middle East, Jalia was evicted. She was unemployed and could not cover the rent payments alone. Soon she stopped adhering to her medication.
“I started feeling very tired all the time, my body was like a huge luggage, the stomach pains made me think I had ulcers which wasn’t the case. I couldn't sleep on several occasions, I would literally be up the whole night, and on a few occasions I would oversleep. In most cases, this routine made me forget to take my medication. Because I consistently missed my medication, I was referred to a counsellor for intensive adherence counselling, where the counselor advised me to share some of the challenges I was facing. I had to be honest because I wanted the help and that is how I confided [in her] about a miscarriage I had way back in 2012 at 8 months which I didn’t share much about. I was jobless and one of my children was battling for his life in hospital because he had been involved in an accident. At times I thought it was all happening because I had HIV and I always asked God why it was me going through all that. It felt like I broke so many eggs in one basket and had nothing left to eat. The counselor talked to me about seeing a therapist which I found strange and I was worried I was going to become crazy. To be honest, I just accepted so that I’d leave the clinic and go back home".
"The therapist took me through the first session, we shared more than I even expected. I remember I was given one small tablet which she advised me to take while I was going to sleep, and that night I remember it was one of the best nights I had in a long time, I slept with a lot of peace and confidence. From that day I acknowledged that I needed emotional assistance and I have been keeping my appointments with the therapist without missing out on any of them. I am glad that I can now genuinely say I am fine, and I can smile as well. My son is getting well, I also started a vegetable business that assists me with affording the standard of living. If it wasn’t for Alive Medical Services to realize that I had depression, maybe I would have resulted to a mental break down unknowingly."
As part of our comprehensive health services, Alive Medical Services advances mental health awareness through a mental health clinic every Wednesday. We understand that depression negatively affects the quality of life of people living with HIV Poor mental health is linked to several negative behavioral and clinical outcomes such as more rapid HIV disease progression, poor adherence to HIV treatment, and risky sex. The work we do to care for our clients’ mental health is only possible because of you, our partners. Thank you so much.