Tag Archives: namuwongo

Meet Janipher, an Administrative Assistant at AMS

For many, getting tested for HIV can seem like an impossible experience. There’s the fear of diagnosis, of course, but also the fear of being seen: if you’re spotted at an HIV clinic, you could be associated with a virus stigmatized by most of the world.

Such perceptions shape the course of Janipher’s days. Often, she is the first person a client sees upon entering Alive Medical Services (AMS). As part of the front desk department, Janipher works with three other colleagues to receive hundreds of people every day. The team helps clients feel comfortable and cared for throughout their time at the clinic, decreasing waiting time and delays.

“I work with clients of all different characters, colors and classes,” Janipher said. “My job is to show everyone they are welcome no matter who they are, and to help them get the care they need.”

Such inclusiveness is important to Janipher. When she was just a young girl, her father passed away unexpectedly, leaving Janipher and her six siblings without a home. His land was seized and sold, but finally, Janipher’s aunt took her in as the 14th child in her family.

With a family so large, it was only through hard work that Janipher was able to make it through school.

“Life wasn’t easy, but I worked hard,” Janipher said. “I was one of the best students at my university. Because of that, they paid for half of my tuition.”

For the past three years, Janipher has worked as an administrative assistant at AMS. She has overcome the struggles from her childhood — but they have also helped Janipher empathize with patients when they are going through a difficult time.

Monday through Saturday, Janipher receives clients, updates patient information, and keeps records. She also enrolls new clients into the system if they test positive for HIV.

“Every client passes through our hands,” Janipher said. “We monitor every step of their visit to the clinic, and make sure things are running smoothly.”

Since she began working at AMS in 2014, Janipher has watched the clinic’s client load rapidly expand in size: today, the front desk team attends to an average of 170 to 250 clients each day. By greeting each one of those clients with warmth, Janipher helps patients feel at ease at AMS, facilitating their return in the future.

“When clients first come in, they often seem hopeless,” Janipher said. “Our department smiles so we can keep them optimistic.”

Giving Back While Moving On: The Kisayke Group at AMS

Across the world, young girls struggle to balance their menstruation cycles and their daily lives. Without the proper resources, a week-long period can mean a week out of school – and because in rural areas, sanitary pads can be expensive and nearly impossible to find, 30 percent of Ugandan girls miss class during their periods.

“I was an orphan, and when I was young, it was so hard for me to get sanitary pads,” said Carol,* a client at Alive Medical Services (AMS). “I had to rip my regular clothes and use those as pads.”

Remembering such experiences, Carol joined AMS’ Kisakye Group as soon as it was launched in February of 2015. AMS established the Kisakye Group for two reasons: the first, to help HIV-positive individuals earn a sustainable income; the second, to support girls and women with menstruation management. AMS trained six clients to cut, sew and create reusable sanitary pads – or “super kits” – for donation.

Each super kit contains four cotton pads, two “shields,” two Ziploc bags and a cloth drawstring bag. These super kits help women use their sanitary pads discretely and with dignity.

Since then, the women have continued coming to the clinic nearly every day to sew. The Kisakye Group produces approximately 200 super kits per quarter, each of which can last up to three years. AMS pays women for each super kit they produce, all of which are donated to vulnerable populations and other AMS clients.

“These pads are so important,” Carol said. “You can wash them easily, which prevents disease and infection.”

The sale of these pads has helped women like Carol change their lives: because of her income from the Kisakye Group – and because of her treatment at AMS for the last nine years – Carol’s health has remained under control. Her two children are HIV-negative, happy and healthy. And, Carol reports that her financial stability has helped her look past the stigma and misconceptions regarding HIV.

In addition, Carol’s husband left her last year. Instead of falling apart, the small family picked themselves up, built a new home, and started their lives on a healthier foot, all because of Carol’s savings from the Kisakye Group.

“I love being here,” Carol said. “Kisakye helped me build a one-bedroom house. It helps me budget for my children. Because I know how to make these pads, my daughter won’t have to deal with her period in the same ways I did.”

* we have changed the name of this client to protect her privacy

A Mother’s Love Resurrects a Dying Child

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.”