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People Living with HIV review progress in Uganda

People Living with HIV review progress in Uganda

Picture of James  Kityo

Persons living with HIV gathered at Bishop Asili and made merry while reviewing progress on a number of issues that affect them. The function was attended by staff at the health centre, Human rights advocates and staff from the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Uganda.

According to Bishop Mabinda John of Bishop Asili Health center, it was unfortunate that there was still poor adherence to antiretroviral drugs as such, “Many people are increasingly getting on the 2nd line regiment of treatment. This is because people are not managing their drugs well.  But the virus is still with us and our hope is that in future, no person gets HIV or dies of AIDS related illnesses. If you do not have HIV, try all means in your reach not to get it. When you get it, go to the health facility, get tested and be started on treatment”

Traditional practices and HIV

In attendance was Mr. Ssalongo Makubira, from Bamunanika is a traditional medicine man who is himself living with HIV. According to him, “Having been tested for HIV and working with the hospital in managing my illness, I do not accept all cases that come to my shrine and complain of witchcraft. I refer them to the health clinic to be tested for HIV. Sometimes the signs are visibly clear, so, we have to first rule out HIV from the start. I was brought to Bishop Asili hospital when I was about to die, but look at me now, I am health” Ssalongo currently takes charge of 30 persons living with HIV in Bamunanika.

Jeniffer Gaberu a PMTCT project team leader with the Community Health Alliance Uganda (formerly, International HIV/AIDS Alliance) noted that, “I am very happy with the traditional healer (Ssalongo) who has recognized his role. He knows where he can start and where he stops when it comes to his job of a traditional healer when he is dealing with HIV positive clients. Most important he knows when it is time to refer a patient to the doctors. Much as his work is in the shrine, he does not confuse his clients that they have been bewitched but that they should go to a health facility. I commend him for this.”

Human rights for People living with HIV/AIDS

People Living with HIV have several human rights challenges in Uganda and in a bid to address this, the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF), with funding from ViiV HealthCare is implementing a project to promote the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.

According to Julius Ssentamu the project officer HIV/AIDS, “We have done a lot to ensure respect for human rights by reaching out to people living with HIV/AIDS through awareness sessions, radio talk shows, mediations in the communities, and free legal representations in different courts of law, advocacy against bad laws and policies; like  the Uganda HIV prevention and control bill 2010 and the popular paralegal trainings. All these interventions are aimed at making the lives of people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS better and less stigmatizing.”

“Even before the first Uganda stigma index was released, Human Rights Awareness and promotion forum identified the gap and as such we are implementing a project which fighting HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination in the central region of Uganda, including Luwero.”

The Human rights project and the Prevention of Mother to child transmission are both funded by the ViiV Healthcare.

Livelihood project among PLHIV

Bishop Asili hospital located in Luwero also implements a livelihood project that supports People living with HIV , Orphans and vulnerable children and their dependents.  According to Nyanzi Isma Ssentamu, who is the counselor and social worker at the hospital, “We have managed to give out 22 bicycles which help in community programs, like carrying out community outreach. For example these bicycles help in the supervision of those on TB treatment to enable them complete the dose. We take the mother who is HIV positive to be the diamond, while the child she is carrying, that we do not want to get the virus to be the Gold. These bicycles also help us to look for the Lost To Follow Patients, who could have absconded on treatment.”

“In addition, we give the clients nutritional support in their homes. We are teaching them how to grow vegetables in an appropriate way that ensures continuous supply of vegetables throughout the year. We have also introduced the goat rearing and piggery project as a means of economic empowerment and all these started with 3 sub counties of Katikamu, Butuntumula and Luwero.”

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