Peace is HIV positive. She is not embarrassed about it, and she asked to be featured on this website and on a billboard campaign throughout the district that promotes the Hospital’s HIV services. She did this to help raise awareness and inspire confidence in her fellow community members, showing them that there is no need for the stigma and shame that surrounds HIV.
There are many people here like Peace; more than 1 million Ugandans are HIV positive. But Peace is relatively lucky. Although she lost her husband to the disease, she is healthy and educated and she has two daughters who are both well. She works as a VCT Counsellor at Bwindi Community Hospital, and also teaches in schools and churches about HIV in an attempt to lift some of the stigma that still exists in the Bwindi area. We are proud to have a brave woman like Peace working with us.
Only half of the adults in the Bwindi area have ever tested for HIV, and around 10% of those tested are HIV positive. There are likely to be 1,500 people living with HIV in the area who do not yet know that they are positive, and are not accessing the ARV treatment that, on average, extends a life by 30 years. Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV go hand in hand, and TB is the most common cause of death in an HIV positive person. Babies born to HIV positive women have a 30% chance of getting the virus, but with testing in pregnancy, drugs to the mother and the child, a safe delivery and safe infant feeding, this number can be reduced to just 1%.
Our team of doctors and nurses treat 1,600 people with HIV and TB in six different locations, managing to reach some of the most inaccessible places in the country to run a high quality mobile HIV education, testing and treatment service. We can even test for CD4 levels (a test of the immune system) in remote clinics on the edge of the Impenetrable Forest with our Pointcare Now! (read more) machine
In the Hospital the innovative HIV, TB and Women’s Health outpatient building integrates pregnancy care with HIV testing and treatment, with the goal of eliminating HIV in children. Six counsellors test more than 1,000 people each month for HIV and talk about the impacts of the disease and how to reduce risk. Specialist nurses work with pregnant women with HIV and with people who have Tuberculosis infection, both in the Hospital and in the community. Our team is led by Dr. Dan Mugisha, a Medical Officer.
How you can Help
The Hospital obtains most of the money to run the HIV service from partners such as the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) and STAR-SW Project . The Government of Uganda provides HIV and TB drugs, and AIDS Information Centre provides HIV test kits. Since December 2010 STAR SW has been funding CD4 reagents and now we are able to test our patients' immunity regularly. Some individual donors support various parts of the program, such as the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. The Elton John AIDS Foundation is supporting the program for four years but require that we find co-funding for years two, three and four. To date we have not secured funding for this activity and after 2013, lives of 1,600 HIV patients may be in balance since we may not be able to conduct outreach clinics currently supported by EJAF. This is an area where we need your support. Any contribution, however large or small, will go directly to helping those most in need.