Ever since she could remember, Beatrice wanted to be a nurse.
“I saw a lot of suffering around me,” she said. “Even at a young age, I wanted to learn how to help.”
Beatrice loved connecting with people, and she admired the way nurses cared for their patients – not only delivering essential medical care, but providing emotional support alongside it. To achieve her dreams, Beatrice was trained as both a nurse and a midwife, and moved to Kampala after getting married in 2000. Soon after, Beatrice began working as a midwife for a Bukasa-based medical center.
Today, Beatrice is the head of Alive Medical Services’ (AMS) nursing department. She was one of the first staff members at AMS, joining the team when the clinic opened in 2007. At that time, AMS had just one building and six patients, but her friendship with AMS founder Dr. Pasquine cemented her trust in the organization. In the decade since, Beatrice has had a front-row seat of AMS’ expansion: she watched one building turn into three, and six patients turn into more than 13,000.
“I love what I do,” Beatrice said. “I understand the clients and I take pride in helping them. I encourage them, and try to provide them with the support they need to keep on living.”
When she first began working at AMS, Beatrice conducted deliveries as a midwife. Over time, AMS has shifted its activities to focus on pre- and post-natal care, supporting mothers not only as they prepare for delivery, but as they continue caring for their children years after. To ensure safe births, we provide pregnant mothers with referrals to trusted hospitals, and continue following up with mothers throughout their children’s lives.
As head of AMS’ nursing department, Beatrice sees over a team of four, whose responsibilities are vast and varied. Nurses work with patients immediately upon their arrival to the clinic, taking their vital signs and measurements, and recording their data for the doctors. They also administer patients’ treatment, check on those in the inpatient wards, deliver health education sessions, and provide family planning services, among other essential activities. Beatrice is also in charge of AMS’ stock; in this role, she monitors all medicine moving in and out of the clinic.
“It feels good to help people,” Beatrice said. “And the impact we make feels important.”
Growing up, Anthony had always been sick. His mother took him to clinics, hospitals and health-care centers all over Kampala, but it wasn’t until age 10 that Anthony’s mother revealed the reason behind those visits. Anthony was HIV-positive, a concept he could barely understand and barely believe.
“I kept asking myself, how could this happen to me?” Anthony said. “Where did I get this virus?”
Dealing with an HIV-positive status at any age is difficult – but at age 10, it can be absolutely unbearable. After years of searching for the right clinic, Anthony and his mother, who was also HIV-positive, started receiving care at Alive Medical Services (AMS). Anthony began attended counselling sessions with AMS staff, and soon joined the Victor’s Club, a youth-led support group for children age 11-24.
Now age 22, Anthony remains an AMS client. The support he’s received from AMS has been critical, Anthony said, particularly after his mom passed away. The Victor’s Club has provided a platform for Anthony to de-stress, receive advice, and grow a support system of peers and other HIV-positive youth.
“AMS has really provided great support to me and my family,” Anthony said. “After my mom died, I was left to care for my two siblings. AMS provided us with food support when times were hard.”
This past year, Anthony also engaged in a music therapy project through a partnership with AMS and Musicians without Borders. Anthony, who had always loved drumming, received technical drum training. He also participated in sessions to build leadership skills and boost confidence. Twice a month on Saturday mornings, Anthony taught HIV-positive children how to drum, dance and sing, an activity that helped him build his self-confidence and patience. He grew to love attending the sessions and interacting with children, as it was not only fun, but rewarding. After the program ended, Anthony and his friends continued making music by forming a band and recording their songs.
“Through that program, I realized I really enjoy working with kids,” Anthony said. “I think it’s my calling.”
By the time Jean Paul* lost his job in 2014, he had grown used to putting up a fight. For years, he had battled HIV alongside his wife, both of whom are active clients at Alive Medical Services (AMS). He was used to fighting for his health – but what he was not used to was fighting for his finances.
Before being let go, Jean Paul had been at his job for nearly three years. He assumed, as it said on his paperwork, that his bi-monthly paycheck deductions were going directly to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). When he visited the NSSF’s office, however, there was no record of his account increasing on file – or the deductions from Jean Paul’s paycheck.
Alarmed, Jean Paul immediately made his way to AMS. Once seated in a counsellor’s office, he laid out the whole story: a great deal of money had been taken from him, and he had no idea how to get it back. To help Jean Paul recover his earnings, AMS linked Jean Paul to a representative of Justice Centres Uganda (JCU), a legal aid centre that helps Uganda’s most vulnerable citizens access the legal services they require. Such a linkage was made possible through AMS’ partnership with JCU, which is overseen by the AMS counselling department.
Jean Paul’s case is just one of 12 that AMS supported this past year. AMS also holds awareness-raising sessions at the clinic, which help patients understand the legal rights they hold as Ugandan citizens. Unfortunately, human rights abuses abound for those affected by HIV – and those who are most vulnerable often have no way of accessing the legal services they need to protect themselves. Violence, theft, housing evictions and general discrimination can make it nearly impossible for people to live dignified lives — and even harder for them to adhere to anti-retroviral treatment.
By making legal services available to patients, AMS helps clients achieve social justice, ultimately allowing patients’ focus to return to what matters most: living healthy and productive lives.
“I really appreciate the care and support I’ve received at AMS,” Jean Paul said. “Soon, I will be receiving the money that was owed to me. I am so grateful for that.”
* indicates name has been changed for the individual’s privacy
Joan was only 19 when she realized she was HIV positive. She had been sick for weeks, suffering from headaches, fever, and fatigue – and after a friend suggested she visits Alive Medical Services (AMS), she made an appointment to be tested. That day, Joan was counselled, diagnosed and immediately enrolled in care.
“I was continuously supported by the AMS doctors and counsellors,” Joan said. “They directed me on how to take medicine very well. Within five months, I felt very stable and very strong.”
Nearly ten years later, Joan remains a client at AMS. She not only comes to the clinic for herself, but for her family as well. AMS ensured her 4-year-old son, Dickson, and her 2-year-old daughter, Anita, were born HIV-negative. Joan is just one of over 1,000 expectant mothers AMS has cared for since 2013, all of whom delivered HIV-negative children after receiving prenatal care, education, and support.
“I wasn’t scared when I found out I was pregnant with Dickson,” said Joan, who became pregnant four years after her initial diagnosis. “The counsellors at AMS had already advised me on the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy, and I felt I had all the support I needed. I was positive but my baby would be HIV-negative.”
To ensure such an outcome, AMS provided Joan with education, healthcare and counselling throughout her entire pregnancy. AMS counsellors also enforced the value of proper adherence to her medication, breastfeeding, and child care after birth.
Once Joan delivered, she brought Dickson back to AMS for testing and check-ups. He was tested first at six weeks of age, again after 1 year, and once more after 18 months. Every time, Dickson tested negative, as did her second child, Anita, who was born two years later.
“I have joy in my heart because both my babies were born negative,” Joan said.
Joan’s viral load is now suppressed, and she continues to take her anti-retroviral medication regularly. To keep her husband – who is HIV-negative – safe, Joan uses condoms every time she has intercourse. In addition, AMS has provided her with injectable contraceptives twice, ensuring Joan has control over her family’s growth. Joan’s husband has become an active patient at AMS as well. Every three months, he visits the clinic to get tested and ensure his HIV-negative status has not changed.
It is only through partners like you that AMS can help mothers like Joan. Your support is critical to ensuring children are born HIV-negative – and you are playing an integral role in halting the spread of HIV, and keeping families safe. For that, we are incredibly grateful. Thank you so much!
Follow this link https://goo.gl/AAkMGh to donate towards our Elimination of Mother to Child Program.