Towards an AIDS free generation in Uganda (TAFU2)

Towards an AIDS free generation in Uganda (TAFU2)

All stories in this project

COVID-19 turned out to be a blessing in disguise

Multiple waves of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Uganda, hindering access to HIV and antenatal care services, including access to ARVs. We spoke with Innocent Mwesigye, Beatrice Rwakimari, Enock Kabuye and Flavia Nninsiima of ARISE who shared with us how home testing and nutritional support ensured HIV treatment and support of children and pregnant mothers in these challenging times. 

Poverty increased and food became scarce

Flavia explains: “Our major concern is that children who are living with HIV do not have access to the treatment they need to stay healthy. This COVID-19 pandemic interrupted testing of children and pregnant women, it interrupted supply of medicine, and subsequently adherence and retention to medicine. We must ensure medicine are available in our communities. We must ensure children living with HIV get the medicines they need and that they take the right doses at the right time.”

Innocent continues: “Poverty increased and food became scarce. Caregivers and pregnant women missed appointments at HIV and antenatal care facilities. The risk of missing these appointment disrupts access to treatment and is disastrous for enrolling and retaining pregnant women and children into care.”

Increased number of children adhere to treatment

Because of the grant through the Aidsfonds Emergency Response Fund, community health workers were now able to test children at home and bring the medication directly to the children living with HIV. Other households in Ntungamo District in Uganda saw what was happening and voluntary started taking their children to facilities to test them. This accelerated ARISE’s achievements: an increased number of children living with HIV have been identified.

“But identification was not enough, due to food insecurity children were not able to take their medicines and adhere. With the Covid-19 grant we were able to provide nutritional support to ensure children living with HIV start and retain their treatment. During our ‘Towards an AIDS Free Generation’ programme we ensured that 104 children living with HIV started their treatment, this was before COVID-19. Because of the Aidsfonds Emergency Response Fund we could provide nutritional support. As a result, adherence to HIV medication among children increased, 175 children are currently on HIV treatment, which means an increase of 71 children.” says Innocent.

ARISE covid response for children picture ARISE covid response for children picture

Nutritional support boosts viral load suppression

Aidsfonds Programs Coordinator Towards and AIDS Free Generation in Uganda, Merian Musinguzi, says: “COVID-19 turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Due to our nutritional support, viral load suppression among children living with HIV has increased tremendously. In Ntungamo, many children living with HIV who received medication were not virally suppressed before Covid-19.”

Enock explains: “During the Covid-19 pandemic people were dying of starvation since households were lacking income and food. As a response, we started providing nutritional support to children living with HIV and their families which resulted in increased adherence among children living with HIV and many children living with HIV being virally suppressed. There are currently only 3 children left who are not yet virally suppressed.”

An important lesson is that enhancing food security among communities, and raising awareness about the importance of nutrition are crucial elements in ensuring viral load suppression of children living with HIV. ARISE will take this into account during their future projects, and are currently exploring how to sustainably increase nutritional support in their communities.

About ARISE

This interview has been conducted with Innocent Mwesigye (Program manager, ARISE), Beatrice Rwakimari (Executive Director, ARISE), Flavia Nninsiima (District Coordinator, ARISE), Enock Kabuye (Finance Officer, ARISE)

Appropriate Revival Initiative for Strategic Empowerment (ARISE) is a non-governmental organisation based in Ntungamo District, in Uganda. ARISE strives to improve the lives of people throughout Uganda. Their vision is to create healthy, productive and vibrant communities, to enhance capacities and capabilities of communities to live a qualitative life.

ARISE is one of our valuable partners in the Towards an AIDS Free Generation in Uganda programme. This community-based initiative strengthens existing community structures to find, test and treat children and pregnant women living with HIV.

 

 

ARISE staff picture ARISE staff picture

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