Many Ugandans are reluctant to take ARVs in fear of stigma caused by others
22-year-old Simon Peter Bwette, a resident of Kawempe in Kampala City tested HIV/AIDS positive 10 years ago after his mother was diagnosed with cancer.
Bwette and 2,000 others, live healthily thanks to antiretroviral (ARV) drugs provided for by Kawempe Home Care from the Government.
Kawempe Home Care (KHC) is a private, non-profit organization that provides holistic care to people living with HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Cancer in Kampala and Wakiso districts.
The organization Executive Director, Dr. Samuel Guma told New Vision, that at least 1314 people living with HIV/AIDS had a viral load test and 1,193 (90.7%) were suppressed and 121 (9.3%) were not yet suppressed at this centre.
The figures improved from about 700 (60%) suppression rate between 2015/2016 and hence showing good response and adherence to treatment.
This was revealed last Friday in Kanyanya, Kawempe Division home to Kawempe Home Care during commemoration of ten years of existence.
The higher rates of suppression at 93.5% were found in adults above 19 years and mothers in Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission (EMTCT) programme thence giving hope of HIV/AIDS treatment in Kampala and Wakiso Districts.
"Patients have listened to our counselling. We continue to monitor them after providing ARVs drugs. We are achieving good results in the fight against stigma." Guma said.
However, despite the fact that free HIV/AIDS drugs are provided for, Guma noted many Ugandans in the area are reluctant to take drugs in fear of stigma caused by others.
Mother to child transmission
Between April 2016 to March 2017, 92 new mothers living with HIV were enrolled on EMTCT program bring the numbers to 158 mothers active on the same programme.
A total of 81 babies were tested for HIV at this centre by DNA 1st PCR and 79 (97.5%) from about 65 were HIV negative.
The two babies whose mothers had not received EMTCT care before their recruitment turned HIV positive.
Other 55 babies were tested for HIV by rapid test at 18 months and 100% were HIV negative.
"Pregnant mothers have continued to seek guidance and tested for HIV/AIDS here, we continue to encourage them to take drugs, and their babies will be safe after delivery." Guma added.
Viral load monitoring
Viral load test is a preferred tool for monitoring HIV/AIDS patients' health; establish response to drugs and suppression rates.
Viral load test is conducted annually for suppressed adults and after every six months for children, whereas baseline viral load test was done for patients who spent at least six months on ART.
The Uganda AIDS Indicator survey 2011 shows that the national average prevalence of HIV/AIDS increased from 6.4% to 7.3% with Kampala and Wakiso districts standing at 9.5% and 10.1% respectively.
This was mainly attributed to poor population in slums and semi-slum areas of both Districts.
Kawempe division is known to have a thriving commercial sex business in areas of Kalerwe, Bwaise, and Kyebando among others.
Inhabitants of these areas have high behavioural risks due to redundancy, high disease exposition but with limited incomes to access treatment.
It's also estimated that 30% of all commercial sex workers in Kawempe division are HIV positive and those commercial sex workers are leading to the rise of the HIV/AIDS prevalence in Kampala and Wakiso districts.
Kawempe Home Care in partnership with the Infectious Disease Institute (IDI), Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and among other organizations has embarked on a five year project to bring the HIV epidemic under control in both districts.
These organizations are offering a comprehensive package of HIV care and prevention services including, elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV, early infant diagnosis antiretroviral therapy.
Others include nutrition assessment and support, treatment of opportunistic infections, paediatric adolescent HIV/AIDS care, and TB/HIV co-management and targeted HIV testing services.
Dr. Umar Ssekabira, Head of Training and Capacity Development Department at Infectious Diseases Institute at Makerere University raised concern that prevalence is increasingly higher among children of 15 years and above thence calling for more sensitization in schools.
Ssekabira who was the Chief Guest added," The prevalence is becoming higher among children especially girls, we attribute his sexuality among youths and call for urgent response."
He commended Kawempe Home Care for extending support to HIV/AIDS, cancer and tuberculosis patients in the country.
The Principal Medical Officer at the Health Ministry Dr. Jacinta Sabiiti assured Ugandans of support to zero and free HIV/AIDS community in Kawempe.
He also told Youths to avoid sexual activities, the married to be faithful and those living with HIV to use antiretroviral drugs adding, "You can live longer when you're taking antiretroviral drugs."
Founded in 2007, Kawempe Home Care was established by five members to care for HIV/AIDS patients in the areas of Kawempe, Kasangati and Kyebando; to ease access to drugs, food boosters for survival.
It is a private not-for- profit, community organisation in Uganda. It provides the most disadvantaged people in the community with medical treatment but also psychological, emotional and social support. KHC is committed to preventing the further spread of TB and HIV in the community.
Founding Members included Guma a palliative expert and Executive Director, two nurses and counsellors with a start-up capital of $100 (which was sh260,000) at the time.
The team recruited about 15 volunteers with in the area, who were required to move around from place to place searching for HIV/AIDS patients. They would also ensure that they kept them on the supply of ARVs.
The volunteers were also mandated to offer guidance, counselling and testing to HIV/AIDS patients.
HIV/AIDS patients under stewardship of volunteers would move to Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC) in Mengo a Kampala Suburb, to get access to the antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.
At the time of establishment, it had its headquarters in Kasangati along Gayaza road in Wakiso district, but later relocated to Kyebando a Kampala suburb.
The foundation later expanded, and started taking care of patients suffering from Tuberculosis. This was after many HIV/AIDS patients were found to also have TB.
"We were prompted to setup the facility during an outreach in the area. There were many patients at the time and drugs were inaccessible, patients were worsening," Guma said.
With collaboration with Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Infectious Disease Institute, Hope for Children (UK), Horizon T3000(Austria) the facility now accommodates over 2000 HIV/AIDS patients and 1862 are receiving antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.
Kawempe Home Care has setup several income generating activities in the area including piggery, mushroom growing, to over 200 HIV/AIDS and TB patients attached to the organization.
It has since provided scholarships and bursaries to145 children at several vocational institutions, secondary and primary schools in the country.
More so, the centre wants to build a long-term, safe, and secure environment for children with cancer. In March this year, it launched the 1000 for 100 campaigns. The idea is that if we could get 100 friends or partners to raise US$1000 each, then Kawempe Home Care's New Hope for Children hostel could have a permanent home.