Bwindi Community Hospital sends its’ HIV team into the surrounding area three days each week for a mobile testing and treatment clinic. The HIV team takes a portable CD4 machine with them on outreach clinics, which counts the cells that the HIV virus attacks. With this machine our team is able to have almost immediate results to our clients- within eight minutes of taking a blood sample. Many members of the community are unable to walk to the Hospital for testing and treatment due to the long distances they would have to travel, so we take treatment out to them.
Gervis, 43 years old, is a father of seven children and lives about 20 kilometres away from the Hospital. Gervis and his wife have been getting AIDS treatment from Bwindi Community Hospital since 2007. He lost his first wife in 2001 because there were no HIV/AIDS services in the area, and nearly died himself before he began receiving treatment from a distant Hospital more than three days walk from Bwindi.
Gervis has said, “It is better now because I don’t have to walk the 20 kilometres to the Hospital since the HIV team comes to a health centre close to my home. This service was a total relief for me and my family. Not only is it near home, but the service is much better.”
More than two hundred local people living with HIV have joined one of our patient support groups, which meet in different parts of the Bwindi area each month. Out of these support groups, a drama group has been started which tours schools and churches delivering a delightfully funny and poignant play about a man whose life is changed when he finds out he is HIV positive and accesses treatment.
Some members of the patient support group have also started teaching in schools. They have been trained by Bwindi Community Hospital in basic teaching methods, and run lessons about HIV prevention and stigma-reduction into every classroom in the Bwindi area. Other members have been lucky enough to receive young female goats that they take home and rear, returning the first female offspring to the group so that another person can benefit.
Our family support group is for pregnant women with HIV and their partners. Managing HIV within the family is tough and there are many financial, gender and emotional issues that the group explores. This group is led by the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV nurse.
More than 1,000 people test for HIV each month. Each year we conduct a community survey that gives us information about which parts of the Bwindi area have the largest number of untested people. We take counsellors and laboratory staff to these places in order to give all people an opportunity to know their HIV status.