Uganda Partnership Program Update - April 15, 2010

We are very excited to tell you about how our Uganda Project is progressing.  We have received the first field report back from our partner foundation, the Uganda Partnership

Prepared by Nina Morgan, Uganda Partnership

In early February when I received news that several boxes of the supplement would be brought to Uganda, I scheduled a meeting with our HIV group to discuss the possibility of taking these supplements. I explained that the supplement had vitamins and minerals in it that were specially designed to help those with HIV and that it was possible that it could increase the CD4 count. The women were very excited about trying the supplement. Some of them had received multivitamins through other previous programs for out HIV group and through the hunger loans we provided during the fall 2009 hunger period.

The women and children agreed to provide feedback as well as get their CD4 count tested more frequently. The group selected six individuals that were members of this clinic, who hadn’t started ARVs and who had had low CD4 counts in the previous testing period. We made a plan to get all of the CD4 counts of women and children tested the following week (total six women and six children).

We made arrangements to bring our people in for the CD4 count test. Unfortunately their testing machine is ‘temperamental’ and it required us to phone in the morning to see if the machine was functioning that day. It took us a few weeks and three tries of organizing all of our people for early in the morning before we finally were able to bring them in on a day the machine was functioning.

On the CD4 testing day we picked up all the women and children, with their mothers and drove them one hours’ drive to the Ishaka HIV/AIDS clinic. The doctors were very accommodating and bumped our people to the front of the line for CD4 testing; they also tested their MUAC, a test for malnutrition. All of our women and children were all “green” or normal. Their weight was measured for our survey as well as to assist us in determining how many supplements the children should take. We provided each individual with enough supplement tablets for two weeks, based on the guidelines. In addition to CD4, MUAC and weight we also did a baseline assessment on: Appetite, Functional Level, Alertness, Sleep, Happiness, Opportunistic infections and any other comments or complaints. 

After two weeks we met in the village with the group members to discuss their progress, provide them with two weeks more of supplement and fill out our surveys. The members were very happy with the results of the first two weeks of taking the supplement. In general the women and children were now sleeping through the night, they had an appetite where there was typically none before, and they felt stronger and more able to work or they were able to work where two weeks before they felt unable. They were generally more alert and less distracted. Many reported a difference in mood, an increased happiness replacing worry and depression. Several women confessed to me that they had been sceptical about what the supplement could do, if it could really help as much as I has suggested it could, but now having seen the results they were very happy and enthusiastic about it. The members, who were not taking the supplement, seeing the difference it made in just two weeks for those on it, expressed an increased desire to find a way for all of them to get on it. We discussed other issues related to our programs with them and then the group taking the supplements expressed a desire to somehow thank those people in the foster foundation for what they have done and decided to make a small angel from local corn husk as a small token of gratitude. We then conducted interviews for some of the members to get their stories of how they found out about their status and how it impacts their lives in rural Uganda.

In our discussions with the HIV doctors we also made arrangements for the clinic to create an outreach center in our village once a month, instead of the funds that we spent on the fuel to bring our women and children to the clinic we agreed to provide the funds to the doctors to come to the village once a month to do testing, counselling and providing services to those members already registered and anyone who tested positive.

In the last week I was in Uganda we were finally able to pull together what we needed to begin this outreach program. Eight doctors came to the village, provided counselling on avoiding HIV and answering questions for the approximately five to six hundred people that had assembled from our groups, our children and the local community. The doctors were able to test two hundred new people, eleven of which found out for the first time that they were HIV+ including a teenager, the daughter of one of our HIV members, who was likely born with HIV but hadn’t got the courage to test until that day and a three year old orphan who had lost her parents to AIDS and is being raised by her grandmother. It was incredibly difficult watching the teen-aged girl receive the news that she was positive, she was utterly devastated. For this girl having watched the painful death of her father and the wasting of her mother, finding out she was positive was like a death sentence. For me, having seen the impact that the foster supplement has had on our women and children that are taking it, even in just two weeks, I have hope that this girl can access your supplement and can soon see the chance for life through her despair.

Our team in Uganda will also continue to take these surveys and get the CD4 count measured once every one to two months (depending on the testing machine) of our members taking the supplement.

I would also like to express my sincere thanks to the foster foundation and the individuals that made the arrangements and secured the funding for this project to take place, it is clear to me from what I saw that the supplement has a very positive impact on the quality of life of our women and children who were fortunate enough to be able to take them. I am very much looking forward to further discussions on how we can make this project sustainable and how we can get the rest of our members (currently an additional 26 people) taking the supplement.

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Help us continue to make a difference in someone’s life by supplying critical micronutrients to those in need, and become a sponsor.  

For more information contact Melisa Lafleur at mlafleur@hdfoster.com  250-381-9133 ext 253