Jamra primary scholl for children affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs or poverty, Senegal (c) Nell Freeman/Alliance Participants in the Photovioce project, Ecuador © Marcela Nievas for the Alliance
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Reflections on HIV in Uganda


George Walakira, Kalangala Island © Nell Freeman/Alliance

HIV affects every area of life in Uganda but people have learned to live with it, often in interesting and enterprising ways.

Lazarus Owakubariho is based in the capital city, Kampala and has been working for the Alliance on the CORE initiative (Communities Responding to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic). This five year project funded by USAID and implemented by a consortium including the Alliance,  supported the national government to coordinate a response for children affected by HIV as well as implement HIV prevention work among young people in the country.

“We have a number of employees who are not able to work 100% of the time because of HIV,” explains Lazarus. “This has been happening with teachers. So what we need to do is make our systems cope, for example maybe we provide an extra teacher to the school to provide cover when it’s needed.”

“Over the past ten years there have definitely been positive changes in terms of HIV management and even transmission,” says Lazarus. “People now have a longer life span. The manpower gaps are decreasing and the opportunistic infections have more or less disappeared.”

 “But there are new challenges. We are getting to a point where we assume people can more or less manage their own conditions,” he says.

Lazarus goes on to tell a story of a man who was very sick but had been hoarding six months worth of drugs. “It just showed me that the counselling he received was not sufficient.  People can still be traumatised after their diagnosis and when they are traumatised they can respond in unexpected ways.”

The People Living with HIV/AIDS Group in Kalangala Island in the south west of Uganda face a unique challenge in getting their patients to the nearest clinic.

There are around 84 islands scattered across Lake Victoria and the people need boats to transport them to the clinic for HIV testing and to access their medicines.

George Walakira is married with seven children and has lived on the islands his entire life. He is HIV positive.

“I’m the group secretary and a community worker. To be able to take someone who is sick to a clinic, means I feel my objective is being achieved. It is voluntary work but it makes me happy.

“At the moment we have to wait about one week to find a boat we can use. With the new motors we’ve been given by the Alliance we won’t have to be programmed, we can go whenever we need to. Our group members will contribute to the maintenance and we will use it as a group.”

Annette Mutagaywa works at the Ministry of Health as a public health worker and specialist HIV trainer. She is HIV positive.

“For me I’m hopeful. We shall manage. The approaches are changing so much. For ten years I think we have seen a real change in behaviour. We will see more positive living. The future is good but only if we continue at this pace.”

    To be able to take someone who is sick to a clinic, means I feel my objective is being achieved