Alive Medical Services is launching a new participatory storytelling project to break down stigma and open up conversation around HIV: Positive. Powerful. Alive.
By engaging clients this project, we will provide program participants with a platform to tell their stories from a lens of strength. Through storytelling, video, and photography, clients will show their communities that they aren’t victims – they’re fighters. And they have stories to tell.
We have secured a partnership with a local video company, SkyRock Productions, that has agreed to train our clients on storytelling, video, and photography. However, we still need simple photo or video devices our clients can film their stories with.
That being said, we are looking for partners equally as interested in the power of arts, storytelling, and the end of HIV-related stigma to make this project a reality.
Our clients’ narratives will help reshape the way HIV is viewed in Namuwongo, Kampala, and beyond. Please consider donating to this project at https://goo.gl/8X1syD.
If you are interested in being involved in this project, reach out to Alive Medical Services’ communications department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On December 2, 2017, 100 children gathered at Alive Medical Services for Children’s Day.
“Even though they’re children, they still experience stress,” said Lorna, a counselor with AMS’ youth and children program. “Children’s Day gives them a chance to be free and have fun together. They can forget their troubles for a little while.”
Throughout the day, youth peer educators led children in a number of different activities. They sang, danced, and played games, sometimes with their caregivers, other times with their peers.
The youth educators talked to children about the importance of adhering to their medication, along with other child-friendly health topics.
“Our youth educators really take charge of these events,” Lorna said. “They serve as good role models for the children, and encourage them to stay healthy.”
As children interacted with youth educators and staff, their caregivers participated in their own type of programming: music therapy. Our music therapy program was recently relaunched by two new members of our staff, both of whom arrived two weeks ago from the United Kingdom. These two staff members, Ella and Isabel, engaged caregivers in music therapy sessions throughout the day.
While in these sessions, caregivers were given the chance to unwind, share stories, and enjoy each other’s company. They talked about motherhood, care, and HIV, connecting over the challenges (and of course, the benefits) of raising HIV-positive children.
“A great part of today is the fact that children get to share love with their parents,” said Martin, a clinician at AMS. “We encourage children to dance, sing and spend time together, which is so important.”
On December 1, communities around the world came together to recognize World AIDS Day.
World AIDS Day was created to honor those we’ve lost, celebrate the progress we’ve made, and reinvigorate the fight for an HIV-free generation. Alive Medical Services recognized the event through a number of different initiatives, including three major outreaches, a month-long campaign with Galaxy FM, appearances on television and radio, and the launch of a donation box drive.
Starting in November, AMS teamed up with Galaxy FM to raise awareness around HIV. Every day, these messages were aired three times, and each week, we focused on a different theme. After discussing the importance of adherence, overcoming stigma as an HIV-positive youth, and staying healthy in a discordant relationship, the campaign culminated in a call to action, which encouraged listeners to get tested for HIV.
This radio campaign reached 10 million people, not only in Kampala, but in Entebbe, Wakiso, Jinja, Mpigi, Luwero, and several other areas.
On World AIDS Day, Alive Medical Services set up an outreach at Galaxy FM headquarters in Kansanga. We tested over 150 individuals for HIV, providing them with counselling services before and after their tests and linking those who tested positive to care.
A patient smiles after getting tested for HIV at our Galaxy FM outreach.
On the same day, AMS held another outreach at Total Uganda’s head office in Namuwongo, where we tested over 65 of Total’s employees. Prior to the testing, an AMS doctor, counsellor and patient engaged in a panel discussion about dealing with HIV at home. They also discussed the importance of men getting tested and treated for HIV, as oftentimes, stigma, work hours, and a lack of awareness stop men from visiting the clinic.
Later that afternoon, an AMS doctor gave a health talk to 200 people from key populations.
Leading up to World AIDS Day, we worked to spread health messages through radio and television. Almost every day, we had a different member of our staff on air, appearing on X FM, Galaxy FM, NTV, Capital FM, and Urban TV.
On Monday, an AMS doctor discussed HIV and access to health care; on Tuesday, two of our youth clients talked about stigma, and the challenges of growing up with HIV. On Wednesday, an AMS counsellor and a youth patient delved into the difficulty of adhering to medication while at boarding school, and provided suggestions for teachers and school administrators to better support their HIV positive students.
The weekend was also filled with a flurry of activity: AMS delivered donation boxes to 10 new partners, all of whom will be collecting donations for AMS throughout the month of December. Recognizing that many of our clients are struggling to lift their families out of poverty – and thus, have difficulty paying for their children’s school fees – we will use their donations to build a library for the HIV-positive children in our care.
Our partners for the donation box drive include Goodlife Pharmacy, BBROOD Uganda, Aristoc Bookstore, and Guardian Health, among many others. Donation boxes can be found throughout Kampala at 20 different locations. *
We also had three more radio and television appearances over the weekend, including a question and answer session led by an AMS doctor, a brief on water purification, and a discussion on mother-to-child transmission of HIV and updates in children’s antiretroviral medication.
* Visit any of our partners’ stores to donate to Alive Medical Services’ library project. Our full list of partners include: Guardian Health, Café Kawa, Epiphania Pharmacy, Embassy Supermarket, C&A Pharmacy, Goodlife Pharmacy, Aristoc Booklex, Café Pap, Friecca Pharmacy, and BBROOD Uganda. Donation boxes can be found at the front of each of our partners’ stores!
One week from today, people around the world will celebrate #GivingTuesday. First launched in 2012, #GivingTuesday was created to kick off the charitable giving season, boosting the impact of organizations and connecting individuals with causes they care about.
To wrap up 2017 in the most impactful way possible, Alive Medical Services has teamed up with Global Giving to raise funds for our most vulnerable clients: HIV positive women, adolescent girls, and children. We’ve created this new project page to strengthen our programming for women and children, boosting our support for those most disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic in Uganda.
In addition, Global Giving will match every recurring donation made from November 28 to December 31 by 100%, amplifying your impact for HIV positive women, girls and children at AMS.
Every time we work together, we get closer to an AIDS-free Uganda. We are so excited for #GivingTuesday, and we hope you are too!
On Friday, November 17, over 100 peer educators attended a capacity building session at Alive Medical Services (AMS).
Every quarter, peer educators attend these half-day events, which aim to track progress, dissect challenges, and set goals for the future. Once a client becomes a peer educator, they are charged with referring and visiting eight potential or current clients per month, increasing their communities’ access to free HIV testing and care.
“My husband died because of AIDS, and I never knew,” said Eva, a peer educator. “I always felt like if I had known – if he had told me – we could have avoided his death. I became a peer educator because of that, and to show others that being HIV positive doesn’t mean life can’t go on.”
From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., AMS staff engaged the peer educators in several different sessions. To evaluate the impact of their home visits and referrals, monitoring and evaluation officials went over the groups’ recorded progress. In addition, peer educators voiced the challenges they were facing in their work, sparking conversation about recent successes and setbacks.
One of the challenges highlighted by peer educators was the fact that oftentimes, members of their communities will ask the peer educators to accompany them to the clinic on their first visit. Such accompaniment makes it easier for new clients to locate AMS and feel more comfortable in a new setting – but sometimes, this is not financially feasible for the peer educators.
After discussing the issue and the frequency of such requests, the peer educators came to two solutions: the first, writing out clear directions and detailed instructions of where to go and what to expect when locating the clinic; and the second, to reach out to AMS for transport reimbursement if accompaniment is essential to getting a community member to the clinic.
“Peer educators are instrumental to the comprehensive health care we provide at AMS,” said Geoffrey Nsabimana, a clinical officer at AMS. “These trainings increase peer educators’ skills, and because of that, help them bring in more clients.”
Many of those who attended the training have been peer educators since the program’s launch in 2014. Their experiences – along with their continued attendance at trainings like this one – provided insight for new peer educators, helping the latter navigate their roles and learn how to deal with unexpected challenges.
“AMS is always growing,” said Olivia, a community health worker at AMS. “The capacity building trainings help peer educators manage increased client loads. They also give peer educators a chance to encourage and support each other.”
Later, AMS doctors led a session on the differentiated service delivery model (DSDM). Though this model has been in place at AMS for several years, the clinic is currently looking for ways to strengthen its implementation. By engaging peer educators in this process, AMS will be able to provide DSDM not only at a clinic level, but on a community level too.
“I’ve been a client at AMS since 2007, and I’ve always been treated well,” said Samuel, another peer educator. “I became a peer educator to spread the news about AMS. People in my community don’t realize they provide free services, but I know that if we keep talking, we can reduce the number of people who are getting HIV.”
The next peer educator capacity building training will take place next quarter. In the meantime, the group will go about their monthly duties, expanding AMS’ reach and continuing to educate their communities on HIV/AIDS.
“Peer educators help us to help others,” Olivia said. “Reaching clients is not something we can do alone.”
Taking care of a child – any child – is never easy. But when Irene found out her adopted daughter, Gift, was HIV-positive, she was at a loss for what to do. Gift’s diagnosis came during a difficult time, as Irene brought the baby to Alive Medical Services (AMS) when she was near death. After the doctors and nurses treated Gift, she was started on antiretroviral medication at the age of 2.
“I had never taken care of an HIV-positive person before,” Irene said. “AMS did so many tests and figured out what was happening to my child.”
After Gift’s condition stabilized, Irene continued visiting AMS to seek out advice and retrieve Gift’s medication. The counsellors helped Irene understand the importance of proper disclosure, and taught her methods of discussing HIV in ways that wouldn’t scare or stigmatize her daughter. For years, Irene and Gift took medication together, turning it into a morning routine where Irene would swallow her vitamin supplements, while Gift would take her antiretroviral treatment.
When Irene felt Gift was old enough to know the truth, Irene was honest with her. After discussing her status just the two of them, Irene took Gift to visit the AMS counsellors. Though she was only 8 years old at the time, Gift immediately started tracking her medications with a watch, taking full control over her treatment and her health.
“She really was amazing, and I’m so proud of her,” Irene said. “But she also got the right information from the right people at the right time.”
Gift is now 9 years old, and Irene reports that she feels free about her diagnosis. Her health is stable, and she has disclosed her status to the older members of her family.
“I used to think: how am I going to do this?” Irene said. “I used to be scared. But I thank God for Alive. Now I know exactly how to care for my child.”