Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies

by Alive Medical Services
Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies
Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies
Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies
Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies
Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies
Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies
Lucia during a scheduled appointment at AMS
Lucia 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, Lucia's mother with her brother
Juliet, Lucia's mother with her brother
Sr Florence, a nurse at AMS hugs little Lucia
Sr Florence, a nurse at AMS hugs little Lucia
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A happy Brenda during one of her visits for ART
A happy Brenda during one of her visits for ART

Brenda Joan Nasaazi is a young mother living with HIV in Namuwongo. She has a two-year-old son who is HIV negative as a result of Alive Medical Services’ elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV programme. Brenda started her journey of treatment while in junior school (primary three level) after the death of her mother. “When my mother died, my aunt brought me to Alive Medical Services (AMS) for testing because it was presumed that she had died as a result of HIV.”

“Even though I tested HIV positive, I did not understand what it all meant at the time. Auntie helped me to start on my treatment and adjust my lifestyle accordingly. She made sure that I got treatment from here without fail even though we were staying in Luweero.” – Luweero town is approximately 62 kilometres from Kampala.

Brenda recalls having been able to go to school, “I studied up to senior two. In my primary school, only my head teacher knew about my health status. My friends did not get to know, and I was somehow shielded from stigma.”

Brenda dropped out of school while in at the second level of high school having conceived a child. She decided to keep the pregnancy and sought medical attention like before. “I was not so scared. I came here and sought counselling from here and I was able to give birth to an HIV negative baby.”

23-year-old Brenda has not had any troubles getting her treatment and she credits AMS for having been so supportive as far as her well being is concerned. “Whenever I come here to get medicine, the health workers are also interested in my general well being and I get to share other personal problems with them. This reduces my stress and worries.”

Brenda is one of the young stigma free clients who is not afraid of sharing her story and experience with others. “I want to be confident always and to encourage all young people that they can still live a good life even after testing HIV positive.” The young mother has many dreams among which is to live for her son and work hard for him to live a good life, “I am working in a boutique right now, but I hope to work harder to sustain myself and my son’s needs.” Brenda separated with her son’s father, but she had already made him aware of her status before having the baby. “He was HIV negative and I was positive, but he said he did not mind my status. We separated because of some other issues.”

Smiling Brenda repeatedly speaks of her strong relationship with AMS, “I am so free with everyone here. I am happy with the services I receive from here. There is a very big difference between the life I live now and the one I used to live back in the village in Luweero.” Brenda is now staying in Namuwongo where she is closer, and it is easier for her to get treatment. We appreciate all our donors for contributing and supporting the wonderful call to build an empowered young generation, especially but not limited to adolescent girls and young women living with HIV and creating an HIV-free generation.

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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

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Nancy
Nancy

Nancy* had a great childhood – she never lacked, went to the best schools and had the affection of her parents. As an adult, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, a postgraduate diploma in Monitoring and Evaluation and soon after landed a good job. Then her luck took a turn.

“In 2013, I dated a young man. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was cheating on me with many women. Upon finding out, I resigned from my job and decided to go get myself tested. When I received my HIV results and they were positive, I wanted to die. I walked aimlessly into the road with the hope that I would get knocked and die.”

“It took me two to three years to start taking the antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs because I didn’t trust any health centre. I continuously purchased septrin as starting the ARV’s themselves was my biggest fear.”

Not only was Nancy HIV positive, but she was also four weeks pregnant. “My boyfriend left me when I told him about the pregnancy. I then went home and told my parents about what happened. To my surprise, they were very supportive and stood with me through that trying time, prayed with me, and as if that wasn’t enough, they moved to Kampala to support and take care of me,” Nancy recounted.

“My journey with Alive Medical Services started in 2015 when my parents brought me to the clinic. One of the counsellors I met handled me with so much love and respect and put many of my fears to rest. One thing she asked me to do was to live for my unborn child.”

“At that moment I realized that if my parents were fighting for me, the least I could do is fight for my unborn child.”  In an attempt to not have to explain herself, Nancy bought a ring to disguise herself as married in the event her belly started to show. She started to look for work three months into her pregnancy. I took part in many part-time projects until I got one upcountry when I was six months pregnant.

Nancy carried on with the work until she gave birth in Lira - her hometown. After a month, she brought her daughter to AMS to get checked and to make sure she was safe. When she was discharged and diagnosed HIV negative, Nancy’s parents took the new-born and looked after her while she went back to work to fend for herself and the baby.

When asked about feeling stigmatized, Nancy mentioned that she faced a lot of stigma especially back in her home village. “When I shared with a lady I considered one of my good friends she went on to tell anyone who was willing to listen about my status. As a result, many of my friends stopped talking to me, and those that didn’t asked one question – is it true that you are sick?” she sadly narrated.

“But when I am at AMS, everyone treats me with dignity and respect. AMS has given me a home and hope to live with my status and feel encouraged.”

Today, Nancy is back on her feet, fending for both herself and her daughter; she’s gained stability both financially and emotionally. She hopes that her story will give strength to someone out there who has lost hope.

“I have registered a nursery school and day-care that I plan to open next year. I want to go back to my community back in Lira and give hope to others so they can move on and live a quality life.” Nancy concludes.

*Names, images and some details in this story have been changed to protect the identity of the client.

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Hadijah
Hadijah

When Hadijah realized she had HIV, she was just 23 years old. Hadijah was married, but had a feeling something was going on between her husband and one of his friends. Before she even started showing symptoms, she went to Alive Medical Services (AMS) to be tested for HIV.

“I was feeling fine, but for some reason, I knew I had HIV,” Hadjiah said. “When I sat down with the counsellor, when they pricked me for my blood… I just knew.”

Though she was disappointed, Hadijah tried to stay strong. She knew many people who had HIV, and those who adhered to their medication seemed healthy. If she could be like them, she thought, her life wouldn’t need to change.

Regardless, there was one thing Hadjiah was concerned about: having children. Now that she knew both herself and her husband were HIV positive, Hadijah worried that she would pass the virus to her babies. In her neighbourhood, Hadijah began noticing the people living with HIV who did not adhere to their medication. They lived a reluctant life, she said, and their health was clearly deteriorating. Determined not to follow the same path – both for herself and her future children – Hadijah diligently attended clinic visits, counselling sessions, and community outreaches hosted by AMS when she decided to get pregnant.

“The counsellors followed up with me and encouraged me to adhere to my medication, breastfeed my children, and live positively,” Hadijah said. “They also encouraged me to keep good company.”

A short time later, Hadijah gave birth to an HIV negative baby girl. Two years after that, she gave birth to an HIV negative baby boy. And more than 15 years later, Hadijah gave birth again – this time to a baby girl named Sembatya.

As of today, Sembatya has been tested twice with a DNA-PCR test, the method AMS uses to confirm HIV-exposed infants as HIV negative or positive. Six months after Hadijah finishes breastfeeding, Sembatya will be tested for a final time.

“I am confident Sembatya will be HIV negative,” Hadijah said. “And in the meantime, I will continue taking my medication on time, breastfeeding the baby, and praying for the best.”

Hadijah’s children are just two of over 670 babies confirmed HIV negative in AMS’ care. In the first six months of 2018 alone, we discharged 92 babies from our elimination of mother-to-child transmission program, confirmed 100% of these children HIV negative. In fact, since 2013, we haven’t had a single client in our care give birth to an HIV positive child, a success made possible by our provision of holistic pre-natal and post-natal services.

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

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Alive Medical Services

Location: Kampala - Uganda
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AMSUganda
Project Leader:
Pasquine Ogunsanya
Founder and Executive Director
Kampala, Uganda
$34,877 raised of $50,000 goal
 
259 donations
$15,123 to go
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