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Uganda, September 2015: eMTCT success: 26 year old HIV positive mother learns from her mistake to save future children from HIV

By Catherine Ntabadde Makumbi

26 year old Jackie Ayebale is a mother of four children, two girls and two boys. The girls aged 8 and 6 were born with HIV. Ayebale learnt from her mistake and protected the boys aged 4 and 2 years from the deadly epidemic.

She gave birth to her first born not knowing her HIV status. When Ayebale became pregnant with the second born, she went to Bukulula Health Centre IV in Kalungu District for antenatal care where the health workers tested her for HIV. Her results were positive. Ayebale was advised to start treatment to avoid transmitting the virus to her unborn baby.

Unfortunately, she refused to adhere to the doctors’ advice and threw away the tablet, hence transmitting HIV to her second born. “When I tested HIV positive, it took me 4 days to tell my husband. At the health facility, I was given some blue tablets to swallow every day but I threw them away,”Ayebale, who is a farmer in Kyanagolo village explained.

She regretted her action and accepted the situation. Ayebale is now a champion of Elimination of Mother to Child HIV Transmission (eMTCT) in Kalungu and Masaka Districts. Her husband is HIV negative making them a discordant couple.

Upon agreeing to take antiretroviral virus drugs, Ayebale was able to conceive again, producing HIV negative babies. The smiling Ayebale is full of praises of the eMTCT services and very thankful to the health workers at Bukulula Health Centre who have been helpful and supportive.

“At first the drugs would make me drunk. I talked to the nurses who advised me how to take the drugs. I am now okay and a testimony for all people. I thank the doctors of Bukulula because if I had not adhered to their instructions again, my two boys would also have contracted HIV,” she narrated.

Ayebale was among people living with HIV who gave testimonies at the 10th launch of the eMTCT for Central Region in Masaka District by Uganda’s First Lady Mrs. Janet Museveni. Similar campaigns have been launched in Karamoja, Western, West Nile, Eastern, Mid Western regions among others.

In 2012, Mrs. Museveni was nominated as the National eMTCT champion after which she embarked on regional campaigns to create awareness about the campaign. The campaigns provide the districts in each region with a platform to advocate for eMTCT related issues unique to them.

Speaking at the Masaka launch, the First Lady wondered if Ugandans do not care about their lives anymore, calling upon the young generation to be mindful of their lifestyle. She was referring to the increasing HIV prevalence rate of Central Region which is at 10.6 per cent higher than the national average of 7.3 per cent. The AIDs scourge started off in Masaka and Rakai districts of Central Region.

“Young people and their parents are catching HIV. The kind of lifestyle of bars, youth wanting sex before they are married is escalating HIV. We have talked about HIV many times and especially in this region. People have to change their behaviours,” Museveni noted.

She hailed UNAIDS Uganda Country Director Musa Bungudu for championing the campaign and crusade against HIV saying he has done everything possible to mobilise resources. Mr. Bungudu was in attendance.

The eMTCT campaigns are organised and coordinated by the Office of the First Lady Uganda in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the Uganda AIDS Commission, Development Partners and HIV/eMTCT stakeholders.

Speaking on behalf of the UN in Uganda, Aida Girma hailed the First Lady for her tireless efforts in advocating for the scale up of prevention of mother to child HIV transmission (PMTCT) services not only in Uganda but across Africa.

Girma, who is the UNICEF Representative in Uganda recognised the efforts of the Ministry of Health in implementing the biomedical HIV response. “Despite the staffing challenges faced by the ministry, Uganda is maintaining treatment for about 750,000 people living with HIV,” Girma told the rally in Masaka.

She further said that while the country is celebrating the successes of the PMTCT programme, government and partners should not leave behind children that were born before the programme was sufficiently scaled up.

Dr. Stuart Musisi, District Health Officer Masaka who presented the Central Region eMTCT status report mentioned the drivers of the epidemic as commercial hubs, highways, waterways and migratory populations. He revealed the region was experiencing high stigma.

Central region has 21 districts. In the region, eMTCT services have been extended to health centre IIs in hard to reach or underserved areas to offer Option B+. Option B+ was rolled out up to all health centre IIIs, health centre IVs and Hospitals in Central Region.

Option B+ is a type of anti-retroviral therapy consisting of three drugs in one pill and is given to HIV positive pregnant women to reduce chances of transmitting HIV to their unborn babies during and after pregnancy.

 

 
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