By William Kiwanuka, HIV Team Leader, Kiwoko Hospital
William Kiwanuka has been working at Kiwoko Hospital for many years, first as a nurse, and now as the Leader of the HIV Programme. Today, on World AIDS day, he shares with us a little about his life’s work, and why he has dedicated his life to helping people living with HIV/AIDS.
I know firsthand the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS after being orphaned by this terrible disease. I lost both my parents in a short period of time – my mother died just two years after the death of my father. By the time my mother died I had begun my studies in nursing. She was paying for my school fees, so after her death I had to work in order to raise school fees as well as studying. Seeing how my parents suffered, I developed a passion for helping HIV positive people and decided to dedicate my career to their support and care.
In the 80s and 90s if you acquired HIV you would face severe discrimination. At that stage, there was no clear information how HIV is transmitted. When people saw some of the effects of the disease, such as hair loss or severe malnutrition, they thought it was due to witchcraft. HIV-positive people spent a lot of money on witch doctors to try and be cured of the illness.
Fast forward to today, and things have greatly improved. Today, you would be hard pressed to differentiate an HIV positive person from an HIV negative person because of the availability of free ARV treatment, and sponsors for opportunistic infection drugs. In addition, a lot of health education has been conducted in the community. In Nakaseke, we have seen the HIV prevalence rate decrease from 12% to 8% thanks to a better informed community.
I am proud to be able to deliver services to the people who were in my vision during my childhood. People like Ann Mary. Ann Mary is 18 years old and is HIV positive. She was born with HIV, and parents had rejected her because they thought she would not survive. When we learned of her condition, we conducted a home visit and were shocked to see her so unwell. Ann Mary was in a critical condition suffering from diarrhoea, pneumonia, TB, herpes zoster and she was very malnourished. We registered her in Kiwoko Hospital children’s programme and we started caring for her – providing nutrition support and free drugs to treat all of the opportunistic infections which were attacking her little body. Gradually she improved, and we then helped support her primary school education. Today, Ann Mary is in good condition. She has had no more hospital admissions, and she recently finished her form four exams. She now works with the HIV team as a volunteer, as she is very grateful for the support. Her future plan is to become a social worker.
When I first began working in HIV services, it was hard for me to go away even for a workshop or meeting because I worried that clients would be looking for me, and looking for services. But, among the many things I have accomplished, I have tried my best to train my fellow staff how to love, care and support our clients, and am so proud to be surrounded by such a fantastic, caring and professional team.
My work with people living with HIV can easily be evaluated. A person can be brought to us in critical condition, unable to walk or do anything, but after the care and support we give to them; they gradually go back in their normal life. It makes me proud to be able to help them become strong and healthy again.