AIDS Care Watch

Monday, June 20, 2005

Rapid results give renewed hope in Mozambique

Mozambique Red Cross Report, 13 May 2005

“Having HIV or AIDS is not the end of life but a new beginning,” says André Julai, a 42-year-old father-of-four, from the Catembe district of the Mozambican capital, Maputo.

For the past fours years, Julai has been living with HIV. “I was living without hope because I was afraid that I would die soon. But so far I have managed to look after my children and my wife,” he says.

In 2002, he left his job due to deteriorating health, a major blow to his family: “By that time, I had lost a lot of weight and there was no choice but to leave work. That was the most difficult period in my life as I thought I was going to die. I was also worried about my children.”

It was indeed a difficult time for his family: apart from having to helplessly watch their bedridden father, there was no source of income.

He could no longer afford to pay for his medical bills, yet his situation required him to visit the doctor regularly. The family that used to produce enough food now survived on handouts from neighbours who themselves did not have enough, as the country was experiencing a severe drought.

Julai thought all hope was lost. But the Mozambique Red Cross Society had other ideas. In response to the needs of people like Julai, it introduced a Rapid Results income-generating and nutritional support project in 2004, and Andre Julai was one of the first beneficiaries.

Julai was one of 100 clients who received 100 chickens, poultry feed and had a chicken-run constructed. By then he was able to get out of bed and do some light duties.
“This was a big boost to my morale because for all these years, I was wondering how my family was going to survive given my health situation,” Julai explains.

A few months later, Julai was selling chickens to neighbours. “The first time I sold the chickens, I got about six million metical (US$ 270) and life started improving,” he added.

“I am now able to have good diet, pay my medical bills and there is enough money to continue with my poultry business,” says Julai, who adds that he is now self-sufficient. He suggests that this kind of support should be provided to other people living with HIV and AIDS so that they can support themselves.

Julai is feeling much better now and he remembers very well the time when his skin was pale, rashes covered his body, and his lips were cracked and reddish in colour.
Today, despite the stigma associated with his condition, he resilient enough to always go out in his garden or look after his poultry project.

“The support I got from the Red Cross has given me more energy to continue working for my family and my hope has been renewed,” said Julai.

“When people knew that I had HIV, they thought I was going to die, but here I am, taking care of my life,” says Julai. He expresses anger towards those in his community who discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS. At the same time, he applauds the efforts of the local Mozambique Red Cross volunteers who regularly visit clients in his area.

“Knowing my status has given me strength. I have now learnt to live with the condition and can talk to other HIV/AIDS-affected people, encouraging them to follow proper guidelines on how to live positively,” he says.

The poultry and gardening projects that were introduced by the local Red Cross have helped many clients to have an improved diet for their conditions. The gardening project uses simple technology that does not need too much water for irrigation but yields good harvest of vegetables all year round.

“The results of the project are positive and the volunteers have done a lot in teaching our clients how to run these small projects and they have assisted many families,” said Bernardino Abel, HIV and AIDS coordinator for the Mozambique Red Cross, who also thanked the World Bank for funding the project.

José Tomás
Information Officer,
Mozambique Red Cross

Source: Pass It On eForum:

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Coping mechanisms of People Living with HIV/AIDS in rural Uganda


In Uganda the annual World AIDS Campaign is characterized by three major events, the Candle light memorial in May, the Philly Lutaaya Day in October and the World AIDS Day on 1 December.

Whereas the Candlelight and World AIDS Day are internationally popular, the Philly Lutaaya day is a Uganda-specific event. Born on 17th October 1961, one of his first famous albums “I was born in Africa” made Philly Bongoley Lutaaya (rip), one of the most popular Ugandan musicians at home and abroad. On April 13th 1989, Philly became the first Ugandan to publicly announce that he was a living example of a person infected with HIV. Henceforth, his albums including, “Today its me, tomorrow someone else” launched the AIDS campaign in a country where the elusive epidemic still sounded mythical and stigma and discrimination of its victims was at its highest.

When he died of AIDS on December 15th 1989 at the age of 28, he had undergone eight months of untold suffering and disgrace due to AIDS, but he had left a record never to be erased and the candle light the country was to follow. Today his last album is the AIDS anthem, and the film of his personal experiences as an AIDS patient is a key tool in awareness campaigns. Sixteen years down the road, it should not be possible that people living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda should still suffer from stigma and discrimination. With discoveries and innovations, people infected with HIV should not die in less than a year like Lutaaya, but live longer and productive lives. The question is what is the reality in the rural communities of Uganda?

In October 2004, the National Philly Bongoley Lutaaya day was officially held at Kitimbwa RC Primary School in the rural Kayunga District. The theme was “Positive Prevention and Positive Living”. I visited the district before the d-day to cover the week long activities including home and hospital visits, hospital cleaning, film show of Philly Lutaaya’s life among others.

I had the opportunity to interact closely with a group of people living with HIV/AIDS who have formed an association called Kayunga District Network of People living with HIV/AIDS (KADINET). I accompanied the group in the home visits where I visited bed-ridden AIDS patients, orphan-headed households and elderly carers of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). I heard testimonies of women who have lived with the virus for twenty years and have at some time got bed ridded to near death, but who have been supported by colleagues and treated with herbal solutions until now.

Uganda has signed the UNGASS Declaration and is committed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The national target that form part of the World Health Organisations’s (WHO) global campaign to provide ARVs (anti-retroviral medication) to three million people by the year 2005 (3 x 5) was set at 60,000 people. By December 2004, it was reported that already over 40,000 people were accessing treatment. Although questions of adherence, efficacy and nutrition were still issues of considerable debate, the question of where or who was accessing the treatment were very prominent as statistical figures were presented at the annual Partnership Forum in Kampala earlier this year.

The reality in most rural districts is that a large number of people infected by the virus and suffering from AIDS are not getting access to these life-saving drugs. In one of the rural districts visited, there was a feeling that some patients who had lived for some years on “Kadomola” (small jerry cans of herbs) while those few people, if any, who have been introduced to ARVs following WHO standards have not survived significantly longer. This is most probably because it is difficult for them to meet the required nutritional standards to cope with ARVs. Women cannot take ARVs while carrying their babies down the valley to the well to fetch water or in the garden while digging, and yet go on an empty stomach. The state of the poverty-stricken community in rural Uganda is in one way or another incompatible with the requirements of anti-retroviral therapy.

In reality, “Keeping people alive” in Uganda has more meaning to those communities, families and people infected, who are based in rural areas, who have not yet got access to ARVs, let alone hearing that there is some drug out there that is good, but not an ultimate solution.

HDN Key Correspondent

(May 2005)