Giving Back – A testimony of Love

Jamila Vallant walks into Alive Medical Services (AMS) in on a Wednesday afternoon to pick antiretroviral medication. She wears a beautiful smile on her face like always but this time she is holding a white box with her, a gift to AMS.

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(Left – Right) Jamila Vallant, Jamila’s sister Razia as they hand over their gift of appreciation to Alive Medical Services’ Dr. Pasquine

58-year old Jamila has been married for 14 years and mostly lived in Germany with her husband. She became aware of her HIV-status back in 2004 while in the UK and she was immediately given proper health care. In 2012, she returned home to Uganda and was not sure on how she would continue living positively with proper medical care like she had been receiving while away from home.

Her sister, Razia then told her about Alive Medical Services, a free HIV comprehensive prevention, treatment, care, and support clinic in Namuwongo that serves all clients regardless of who they are. Jamila then made her maiden trip to AMS in Namuwongo and she has been a happy client since then.

Jamila shares that at first, she tried other places but for one reason or another, all would fail in terms of availability of medication, confidentiality among other reasons. “Ever since I came to Alive, I always get treatment for everything even opportunistic infections, few centres provide that. I am also always given all the medication I need and not told to go to another pharmacy and buy this or that, plus the counsellors and doctors are always ready to listen and they give me time. I never feel rushed while at Alive,” Jamila happily shares as she refers to the clinic as Alive, the common name used by most.

As Jamila and her sister conclude with handing over their gift, a cake to Dr. Pasquine Ogunsanya, the Executive at AMS, she shares advice for others living with HIV to always adhere to their medication and learn to take care of themselves exercising healthy living habits. She further encourages people to know their status and accept it if it is positive. “Accepting your status makes you live longer,” she says.

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Jamila’s giving heart is what every Ugandan needs to emulate. Giving back to the people and communities that support us creates a ripple effect in serving more people to improve the livelihoods of entire Uganda communities. This is a call to action, to Ugandans for Ugandans; let us support, give back and develop the communities that make us.

Please join Alive Medical Services as we celebrate our 10-Year anniversary this year. We are putting on a fundraising event in that honour and it will be held on Friday July 7th at 5 PM, at the Kampala Serena Hotel’s Victoria Hall under the theme: “Reach all, treat all, save all: Together for an HIV-free generation.”

The Alive Medical Services 10-Year Fundraising Gala will be a high-class dinner filled with entertainment, jazz, performances, auctioning, raffle draws, and networking opportunities. All ticket proceeds will go towards helping our charity clinic continue to provide free HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment, and support to our growing clientele.

For more information about the tickets or to DONATE to the cause, Contact us on admin@amsuganda.org or 0787552191 or 0702040446

#AMSat10 #Dine2SaveaLife #Ugandans4Ugandans

An HIV-positive mother’s testimony of love

Regardless of her status, Christine has given birth to 4 HIV-negative children

Currently aged 36, Christine came to Alive Medical Services when she was pregnant with her first child in 2009. She was very ill at the time and when she took the HIV-test and it turned out to be positive, she became disillusioned and asked the doctor to recommend an abortion.

Christine was not financially struggling but she was afraid of passing on the virus to her unborn child hence thinking of aborting it instead. The doctor then advised her against the idea and told her about the Alive Medical Services’ prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV programme which has developed into the elimination of mother-to-child transmission (EMTCT) over the years.

Beauty!

She was astonished that there was a possibility of her giving birth to a negative baby so she got the will to try. As Christine shares today, she has given birth to four HIV-negative and healthy children and all of them were given birth to while under AMS’ EMTCT care and services. She attended at least 4 antenatal care visits, adhered to her medication, and made sure that after pregnancy, she would consistently bring her children for the early infant diagnosis (EID) services to make sure that their status remained negative.

“I am very glad that 8 years ago, Alive Medical Services renewed my hope in having an HIV-free generation,” Christine gleefully shares. She wishes that all women all over Uganda and the world would access such services for free so that HIV is eradicated for good. She also does her part by sensitizing pregnant women in her community to know their status so that they can save the lives of their unborn babies.

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A client at Alive Medical Services attends antenatal care where an ultrasound scan is carried out to monitor her unborn child

Mohammed Were’s testimony of love

My name is Mohammed Were and I come from Kapeeka, a village in Nakeseke district that is 60 kilometres from Kampala. I first came to AMS in 2007 when my CD4 was 13 and my weight was 37 kg. My relatives and friends really thought I was heading to the grave. They stood by me regardless.

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Mohammed while at AMS for the monthly ART pickup and food support

I was often too sad about my HIV-status and the thought of leaving my children helpless depressed me the more. During that time, I got challenges with my adherence and my health got worse. The Alive Medical Services (AMS) counsellors and doctors did not give up on me regardless.  Through the intensive counselling services offered at AMS, I was given hope and reason to live again.

I was reassured of the importance of my life and to the people I care about. This was a wake-up call for me and since 2010, I have had good adherence to my medication. Now my CD4 is 459 and my weight has increased to 64 kg.

I was also put on the food support programme where I would get 7 kilograms of beans, maize flour and 2 kilograms of sugar every month. This also boosted my health since I could barely make a living.

Back at home, I am a representative for Kapeeka, coming back periodically to get medication and food for others. This system was made possible by AMS which is the Community ART pickup method. It enables people that are HIV-positive but live far from AMS and have limited resources to come regularly for treatment to access the drugs on rotational basis.

We make a group of 6 people and mobilize funds for one of us to come to the clinic once a month during a food day to pick up drugs and food for the rest. Every month the person to do the pickup is different so that each of us gets a chance to interact with the doctors and have our vitals checked.

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Mohammed while at AMS for his monthly 

Along with other members in Kapeeka, we started the Kapeeka gardening group that begun with only 10 HIV-positive members and now exceed 300. These people thought that they had no chance of living, but now after taking their medication religiously, they do have hope to live a fruitful life. In addition, with support from AMS and Development in Gardening (DIG), we have been able to grow our own crops that we sell and earn some income to sustain ourselves and families. We took DIG courses and now teach others gardening techniques. Also, we try to find more people who are HIV-positive by providing a stigma-free, safe space to disclose so that we can connect them to AMS.

 

“AMS taught me to accept my status, how to live positively, and know that I am valuable in making the next generation free of AIDS. I would want my grandchildren to see that day.”

Waste Water???

World Water Day is a global annual call to action on issues concerning water. This day is recognized on 22nd of March and 2017’s theme is Wastewater with the campaign “Why Waste Water.”

This year’s campaign is about reducing and reusing wastewater. What then is waste water? In simple terms, it is water that has been used in a home, a business, or part of an industrial process.

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Wastewater is: domestic effluent consisting of blackwater (excreta, urine and faecal sludge) and greywater (kitchen and bathing wastewater); water from commercial establishments and institutions, including hospitals; industrial effluent, stormwater and other urban run-off; agricultural, horticultural and aquaculture effluent, either dissolved or as suspended matter” (Corcoran et al. 2010). 

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A FEW FACTS ON WATER:

  • According to the fourth World Water Development Report, presently only 20% of globally produced wastewater receives proper treatment (UNESCO, 2012)
  • Globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused
  • 8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces2, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. Unsafe water, poor sanitation, and hygiene cause around 842,000 deaths each year
  • By 2050, close to 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, compared to 50% today5. Currently, most cities in developing countries do not have adequate infrastructure and resources to address wastewater management in an efficient and sustainable way
  • The opportunities from exploiting wastewater as a resource are enormous. Safely managed wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients, and other recoverable materials

Over 663 million people worldwide do not have access to a clean and quick water supply near their homes hence spending countless hours queuing or moving to distant places to access water that might not be safe for their health. People living with HIV (PLHIV) are prone to diarrheal diseases up to six times higher than those that are not infected. Therefore, maintaining a clean environment and ensuring access to clean and safe water reduces the risk of opportunistic infections for PLHIV.

Currently, in partnership with Procter and Gamble (P&G)’s Safe Water for Drinking Program, we are serving over 7,245 with 54,720 families reached with the (P&G) water purification.

Meet Alex…

A beneficiary of the Safe Water for Drinking Program

Alex Client and uses PUR

(Left) – Alex holding the P&G purifier of water, (Top- right) Alex giving a health talk to other clients about P&G purifier of water and (Bottom-right) He demonstrates to clients the water purification process

Alex is one of Alive Medical Service’s pioneer clients. He resides in Mityana District, a neighbouring district of Kampala, and came to our clinic after marrying his wife who was already a patient at AMS. For the past 8 years, Alex has made the 42-mile journey from Mityana to Namuwongo to receive treatment in addition to, P&G packets to bring home to his family of 15 where they all benefit from them. Alex has been actively using P&G packets for the last 5 years. Prior to treating his water, Alex said that access to clean water at his home was incredibly hard to come by.  Since using the P&G packets, he informed us that not only has he saved money by not having to purchase firewood to boil water, he also has noticed a decline in home incidents of children getting burnt from the boiled water. Additionally, Alex testified that there have been very few incidence of diarrhoea in his family since using P&G packets. When he started treating his water at home, his neighbours became curious and came over to watch him. Alex shared his water, but when the people became too many, he gave them a demonstration and now collects additional P&G packets for him and his neighbours when he comes to AMS for care. Alex is a safe drinking water advocate and actively assists AMS in giving demonstrations and health talks on the days he comes to AMS for care. When asked why he chooses to spread the word, Alex replies “Water is life. I love people and I want them to be healthy and I want everyone to benefit from this clean water.”

As we celebrate this year’s World Water Day, Alive Medical Services is encouraging you play your part by; reducing water wastage, safely treating water for consumption and endeavour recycling of wastewater to encourage its use while reducing the danger to the ecosystem.

Read more about wastewater here https://goo.gl/ZcVRNz

Juliet Namanya and Lucia Kubari

Hope renewed for mother and daughter – A testimony of love

My name is Juliet Namanya. I am 33 years old and a mother of 4. My husband, children and I live in Luzira and three of us have been clients at Alive Medical Services (AMS) since 2011. I have been aware of my HIV-status since 2003 and had been getting my medication elsewhere although the supply was always unpredictable so I did not have proper adherence. The reason I came to AMS was because of my third child, 5-year-old Lucia Kubari who at the time was only 3 months old. She had been terribly sick for about a month and we had run out of options.

Actually, we had emotionally prepared ourselves for her death.

At the time, we lived in Namuwongo but did not know that we were very close to where our hope would be renewed, at AMS. An elderly woman who was our close neighbour realized our distress and directed us to the clinic. I immediately got the first boda-boda with my daughter to AMS.

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Lucia with Alive Medical Services’ Sister Florence Amuron, also one of the team members that supported in saving her life in 2011

On reaching the clinic, we were given priority and at that moment, I regained hope in saving my daughter’s life. After the emergency medical care had been given and realizing that she too was HIV-positive, the doctors got us a car and a reference letter in hand to Mulago hospital. We first despaired because we could not afford the private medical care but AMS’ Director Dr. Pasquine not only gave me a reference letter, she made some calls to ease our way in getting medical care that was beyond AMS. This I only discovered later as indeed we were given good medical attention while at Mulago hospital.

Healthy Lucia Kubari at AMS

Healthy Lucia Kubari with a smile, strikes a pose

My daughter was on oxygen support for about 2 weeks and during this time we got care supplies from Mwama Mugimu. A team of doctors made sure that the oxygen tank did not run dry at any moment and my husband and I kept watch over her while taking turns.

Today, I look at Lucia, my 5-year-old daughter and I acknowledge that she is a miracle that Alive Medical Services helped to happen. I would have been grieving my child but, instead I gladly share my happiness with others. My husband, daughter and I come regularly for medical care since the rest of the children are HIV-negative. I am forever grateful to AMS for all the love and care my family, especially my baby girl Lucia.

Juliet Namanya and Lucia Kubari

Juliet Namanya with now healthy 5-year-old Lucia and her baby brother during their monthly appointment at AMS

Through the maternal and child health services like antenatal care and elimination of mother-to-child services offered at Alive Medical Services, Juliet has been able to have another baby that is HIV-negative.

Unsung Heroes Being Bold for Change

Mummy Julian: A warm heart sharing her love with hundreds

Being a mother to very many from all different walks of life usually goes to show how many lives one has impacted. Mummy J is exactly the emulation of a mother to many; both young and old, workmates and clients, church friends, name it all.

She acquired her name through her infectious love and willingness to lend an ear to anyone who needs it. And for that, she normally does not wait for one to approach, but for them to be present. She can surely tell when something is amiss and she will rebuke you out of your foolishness if she must, with love and tinge of candor.

Who is Mummy J then?

Julian Kalemera is a middle-aged counsellor at Alive Medical Services (AMS) and has been a counsellor for the past 18 years. A typical work day for Mummy J comprises of; receiving clients that are seeking voluntary counselling and testing services at AMS, clients enrolled in care and seeking ART adherence, and intensive counselling.

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Julian Kalemera, also known as Mummy J, a cousellor at Alive Medical Services

It has not always been easy for Mummy J in her endeavours to bring back hope to those that have lost it. Several times she finds herself at an emotional breakdown that she holds back since it is not professional for a counsellor to be in that state. Some of the challenges she faces during her daily encounters with clients are the limited amount of time to interface with them and sometimes the poor attitude of some clients that make it harder to reach out to them. But she is Mummy J, she always finds a way.

 

“Counselling needs a lot of time to address the exact issue and think of a possible way to support the client. Sometimes the turn ups are much bigger than anticipated and yet every client needs support. I usually take the client’s number that I think needs more of my time, I make a follow up just to make certain that I get through to them,” says Julian.

“I have met several clients with diverse stories, heartache and needs. But one thing I am always proud of, is the moment they come around the clinic with a smile,” Julian shares gleefully.

One of the most compelling encounters with her clients is a couple that took a test and turned out discordant, with the husband being HIV-positive and the wife, HIV-negative. The wife was bitter at her husband and threatened to leave him. Mummy J encouraged her to be by her husband’s side during that time in which he needed her the most.

The gentleman broke down during the session and after Mummy J’s concerned inquiry, he mentioned that he had no one to take care of him if the wife left. He had lost all his siblings to HIV and had recently buried his last brother who had succumbed to the same. His only living relative was his mother and he couldn’t get himself to break her heart with sadder news.

When Mummy J continuously counselled the couple, the young man was encouraged to adhere to his treatment. He was healthy and today still comes to AMS for his regular medication refill even after him and his wife separated two years after confirming his HIV-status.

“Whenever people like this gentleman pass by my office just to say thank you, I am always reenergised. My payment is seeing a smile on each client’s face,” says Julian.

Mummy J continues to offer her services especially to women and young people in care. She helps link the women to income generating groups to support their families and themselves. She additionally encourages and links clients to peer educators who are HIV-positive clients and are stigma free, look out for others like themselves, adhere to medication and most of all support those in of need psychosocial support at the community level.

“I think that if only we could share more love with those that are HIV-positive, then we could save more lives. A hug alone can make someone change their mind about ending their lives. It reminds them of their worth,” shares Julian.

She additionally commends all the people that go an extra mile to take care of HIV-positive people because in turn, they are taking care of all the HIV-affected people which is nearly, everyone.

Irene Nyamua

A will to live – A Testimony of love

A will to live – Irene Nyamua shares her story

My husband and I found out that we were HIV+ in 2005. Sadly, my husband died shortly after getting started on the treatment. This made it worse for me because I became severely malnourished and frail, and became subject to constant insults and degradation due to stigma.

People, including my neighbors and sometimes even family, would say hurtful things like, “she looks like a skeleton or that she is going to die soon,” right to my face.

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Irene Nyamua, a client at Alive Medical Services tending to her vegetable garden

I honestly thought that anyone with HIV is automatically condemned to death. That changed when my son’s friend who is a doctor referred me to AMS. While at AMS, I found out that it in fact it is not a death sentence. I had the will to live so I took my medication and treatment seriously. I begun looking very healthy and people that used to laugh at me had nothing to say anymore.

In 2013, a sponsor called Mary Fisher of 100GoodDeeds, which is an income generating project came to AMS to support us and I joined right away. I am now part of another group called Tweyambe where a few of the clients in my home area have come together with support of AMS to collect some funds that we have invested in making purses, mats, baskets, paper beads, bags, and other products from recycled waste that we sell. Tweyambe is for HIV+ clients that want to support each other in terms of economic growth and for psychosocial support.

With the help of AMS, we have also acquired land which we have productively used to grow vegetables and other crops on small-scale using the skills acquired from Development in Gardening project. I am very happy that I now have alternative sources of income to take care of myself and to support my family. I was on food support initially but now with the gardening project, I have enough to have a balanced diet.

Without AMS, maybe I would have been that skeleton that people made fun of or already dead by now. I am very thankful to Alive Medical Services for giving me my life back.

Maama Kapeeka shares her story – A testimony of love

Proscovia NaKayondo ALso Maama Kapeeka, shares her story

I was the first person ever to come to AMS from Kapeeka. I am a mother of 4 and grandmother of 3. I came to AMS in 2006 because since 2004 I had been extremely sick (HIV). I was getting support from elsewhere at the time, but the treatment became so expensive for me to afford and it affected my health. My friends told me about AMS, so I came in 2006 with my husband.

Proscovia Nakayondo who is also known to many as Maama Kapeeka

Proscovia Nakayondo who is also known to many as Maama Kapeeka

During my first visit to AMS, I told the staff about the huge number of people in Kapeeka living with HIV. I was then advised to go back, collect more people, and then come back with them to AMS. So, I did just that and later formed a psychosocial group with people from Kapeeka. I joined the gardening programme as well, and with Development in Gardening (DIG) support, AMS’ clients from Kapeeka started gardening and selling food for commercial gain. DIG provided us with wheelbarrows and water tanks for irrigation during the dry season, in addition to the knowledge in gardening.

My CD4 was 9 in the beginning and then it rose to 860. My viral load is now low and I am no longer on food support because I have gained back my weight and I am healthy plus I wish for more people to benefit from the food support like I have. Right now, I am very happy and I come to AMS regularly to get food and medicine for those back in Kapeeka. We are about 300  known people from Kapeeka benefiting from AMS’ health services.

“AMS takes care of us so well that if there is any pain at all, they will take care of it. It is just up to us to disclose what we need.”

“AMS helped me during a time I thought I was going to die” – A Testimony of love

Julius Shares his story

My name is  Julius Mazima and I am a client at Alive Medical Services. In 2006, I lost a friend to HIV. I then started wondering about my status considering that I had most of the physical signs and symptoms that my friend had. I had a bad rash all over my body and started feeling sick, and concluded that my fate would be the same as my friend’s. I became so malnourished that I became paralyzed on the left side of my body and thus, I was forced to quit my job as a carpenter. I could no longer afford life in Kampala and therefore went back to my village in Jinja with my family. I thought that at least my extended family would help support my wife and children after I had died.

Julius Mazima collecting his food during one of the food and nutrition support days at AMS

Julius Mazima looking healthy as he collects his food during the monthly food and nutrition support days at AMS

While in my village home, I heard about AMS from a client who was travelling all the way from Jinja to Kampala every six months to get a medicine refill. She described the services she received from AMS;  free medication, care and treatment for other infections, food, water purification supplies and economic growth among many more. I had nothing to lose by trying so in 2008, I used some of my limited savings and came to get tested.

When I reached the clinic, I was treated with a lot of care, love, and I was given hope to live a happy and healthy life just as I had been told by the lady who referred me from Jinja. I started adhere to my medication right away, I got on the food program and I gained my weight and health back. I am now almost 100% functional on my left-hand side, and I continue to exercise it to be able to return to work as a carpenter some day in the future.

“AMS really helped me during a time when I felt like I was going to die. Long live AMS! continue saving more lives”

Back to the very start – A testimony of love

Back to the very start

Sarah is one of our first clients in 2007

I am Kukiriza Sarah Namata aged 46years. I came to Alive Medical Services (AMS) in 2007 after a friend recommended that I should get tested for HIV. This was after my sharing with her about my constant illness and weight loss for a prolonged period and general body weakness. I decided to come to AMS for testing with my daughter because after my friend’s assumption, I suspected that I was HIV-positive and my daughter was too.

AMS 10 years ago - Top and bottom Left - The reception, Top Right - The appearance of the AMS main clinic building in 2007, Bottom Right - AMS pharmacy with the pharmacists dispensing drugs

AMS 10 years ago – Top and bottom Left – The reception, Top Right – The appearance of the AMS main clinic building in 2007, Bottom Right – AMS pharmacy with pharmacists dispensing drugs

When I was diagnosed HIV-positive, my heart sunk and I felt like that was it for me, I was ready to die. I was worried because my daughter too was HIV-positive and I condemned myself for that.  I was disturbed and kept asking myself how my daughter had got infected because by then, I had limited knowledge on HIV.

When I was enrolled into care, I did not have any issues taking my medication because I had it at the back of my mind that I had to be healthy to watch my daughter grow and provide for her.

AMS has lifted me from a nobody to someone of good health, importance in my community and a good mother. Before I was enrolled on medication, my CD4 was as low as 200 but thereafter, my CD4 gradually improved. When the technology of determining the viral load was introduced, I realized that the virus in my blood was undetectable.

My life started to change for the better and through the nutrition support AMS offered to me, I gained back my weight and I look better than I did back in 2007. I currently carryout farming and that is how I can some income to take care of my family. I can also afford to buy several food stuffs for a balanced diet. Thanks to AMS for the 10 years of health, psycho-social, economic and other support, I am proud of who I am.