Widowed mother Winifred* was diagnosed with HIV in 1994, very shortly after her husband passed away. Before his death, Winifred’s husband had claimed he had been bewitched, but after he died, Winifred’s mother insisted on her getting HIV tested.
After travelling to a local medical centre, Winifred was told the devastating news. She was HIV positive. Winifred says that the first thing she asked the doctor was whether she was going to die soon.
Thankfully her infection was not yet very advanced, and the doctor told her that it would not be life threatening in the near future. Even so, Winifred could expect her health to get a lot worse. With four children, aged 3, 6, 8 and 10 to look after, Winifred felt helpless and was fearful of who would look after her family if something happened to her. When she asked what she could do, she was told that she would need support, and got referred to Kiwoko Hospital.
Located in the Nakaseke district of Uganda, Kiwoko Hospital’s HIV/AIDS clinic was established in 1993, and has grown from providing basic testing and counselling, to offering a great number of services including a nutrition programme, medicine, support for children with HIV, an orphan support club, and a community outreach program. Adara has supported Kiwoko since 1998, and the HIV/AIDS clinic since 2005, with the aim of contributing to these vital services.
Winifred came to Kiwoko in 1994, and was able to meet with a counsellor who explained to her how the hospital could support her. As there were no available drug treatments for HIV at the time, Winifred was told how the hospital could help by providing nutritious food, something that is extremely important for people living with HIV, as well as support in the form of information and people to talk to.
After getting in touch with Kiwoko, Winifred came to the hospital every month to collect nutritious food packages to help keep her healthy and help her body fight the virus.
In 2004 though, this vital support was interrupted. Winifred’s in-laws had driven her out of her home, forcing her to leave and live with her parents. Without access to Kiwoko Hospital’s support, Winifred knew she needed additional income to care for herself and her family. She was unable to find sources of work though, and her health got worse and worse.
2 years later however, in 2006, Winifred’s eldest son went back to Winifred and her husband’s previous home and claimed it back from Winifred’s in-laws. He took Winifred, who was by this time in very poor health, back to her home as well.
Now able to be back in contact with Kiwoko, Winifred started getting her food packages again and her health improved. Additionally, the hospital contacted her and asked how well her son had done in science subjects in his school exams. As it turned out, Winifred’s son had done quite well, and Kiwoko supported him being put through nursing school. He is now a nurse, and is able to assist in financially providing for Winifred and the rest of his siblings.
One initiative Kiwoko Hospital now runs, and which Winifred is a part of, is a craft-making project. A group of women who have been widowed by HIV/AIDS, meet up each Wednesday at Kiwoko Hospital. They are provided with lunch, counselling, and craft materials, and they spend the day making crafts while talking to counsellors and each other. These crafts are then bought by the hospital, which sells them on to visitors.
The craft making project has allowed widows and other women affected by HIV/AIDS to earn extra income and provide for their family. This money can be used by the women for incredibly important things such as sending their children to school, affording healthcare, and buying food.
Like many other widows, Winifred is very grateful to Kiwoko, and thanks the hospital for providing her with essential resources and support. The projects Kiwoko runs are truly meeting a vital need in the Nakaseke community, and having a great positive impact on very vulnerable people’s lives.
*Name and photograph has been changed to protect identity.