SNATCHED FROM THE FIRE – HIV WORK SAVING LIVES AT KIWOKO HOSPITAL

Senoga Bosco has worked at Kiwoko Hospital since it opened 25 years ago. At that time, the community was still suffering from the devastating effects of the civil war and desperately needed healthcare.

Bosco was the first person to be trained by Kiwoko’s founder, Dr Ian Clarke, and he worked as an interpreter, a pharmacist, a nurse and a counsellor – helping wherever it was needed. Those first few years were extraordinarily busy for Bosco. In just three years he watched their work transform from a first-aid post to a dispensary, a health centre and finally a hospital.

Bosco was passionate about helping the Kiwoko community. So he trained formally as an HIV counsellor, to provide outreach services.

“We had just a mobile team and would go out to the people,” he says. “It would build trust with them and save them the expense of coming here. There was a big need and we could not accommodate all of the people who needed our help.”

In those early days, Bosco remembers, the community called AIDS the ‘slim disease’ because it made people very small, like a skeleton. “It was a death sentence and there was not much hope: most people would survive just two or three years,” he says. “When anti-retrovirals first came in, they were very expensive – around 2 million shillings a month! Only government ministers would have been able to afford them. They finally became free in Kiwoko in 2005, and that meant patients could live for decades longer than before.”

This includes patients such as John Misaago, one of Bosco’s long-standing clients. John was diagnosed with HIV in 1996. He has lived in Kiwoko his whole life and has always received treatment through the Kiwoko HIV clinic.

John was very sick when he was first diagnosed. “I became very thin and had to be spoon-fed,” he recalls. “AIDS began to wipe out many in the village and we would be digging graves from sunrise until sunset. But after tablets became available, I went from being a person with AIDS to a person with a virus. I was snatched from the fire.”

John met his wife Gladys in 2007. She is also HIV-positive, but the couple wished to have a healthy family. Through guidance at the clinic, Gladys underwent Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), took medication throughout her pregnancy and breast-fed for just six months. Their sons John, Joseph, James and Joshua are all HIV-negative and healthy. Gladys’s daughter Damalie is HIV-positive and is growing up to be a strong, beautiful young woman.

Aside from digging in his garden and caring for his family, John now volunteers as an ‘expert client’ for Kiwoko. He talks to people in his community about how to prevent the spread of HIV, the importance of being tested, and how to live positively if HIV has been diagnosed.

In 2014, the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the Nakaseke District was estimated at about 8%, compared with the national average of 6.5%. That is the sixth-highest prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the country’s 112 districts. Kiwoko Hospital does amazing work to combat HIV/AIDS. People such as Bosco and John are critical to the HIV programme’s success and work hard to protect their community from this disease.

“I have seen many changes over the 25 years, and my life has changed through working here,” Bosco says. “My vision is that Kiwoko continues to move towards excellence.”

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