Living with AIDS

CounsellingHIV and AIDS

Grandmother Mariselena Nampiga with her new family of four children who have all lost their parents through the AIDS epidemic in Rakai District, Uganda. Photo: Mike Webb
Grandmother Mariselena Nampiga with her new family of four children who have all lost their parents through the AIDS epidemic in Rakai District, Uganda. Photo: Mike Webb

Godfrey is a counsellor with TASO, an AIDS support organisation in Uganda which encourages people with HIV or AIDS and provides practical help and support. Let’s spend a day visiting with him and learn more of what living with AIDS may mean…
 
Case Study One

Godfrey’s first home visit of the day takes him to a house in the outskirts of Kampala. The TASO vehicle stops under a banana tree.

Sandra appears from behind the house where she has been tending the cooking fire. She is tall and very thin. She has only one child, four year-old Rosie.

After the formal greetings, Godfrey goes inside the house with Sandra. She shares a room with Rosie and a young niece. There are 22 members of this extended family, ranging from a six-day-old baby to two grandmothers in their seventies. Godfrey gives Sandra eggs, milk powder and a bag of clothes for Rosie.

Sandra and Rosie were living in a rural area until they were called to Kampala because her husband was sick. By the time they arrived he had died of “unknown causes”. Soon afterwards Sandra fell sick and was too weak to go back home. By this time, the family suspected that her husband had died of AIDS. Afraid that they would catch it too, they isolated Sandra. She had to stay in one room, with her food left at the door. No-one spoke to her. She lay on the floor with diarrhoea, vomiting and headaches.

One day she was so ill that her relatives carried her to the main road and took her by bus to hospital. She as admitted and the doctor diagnosed HIV infection. A week later, when she was feeling much better, she learned about TASO through Godfrey, who had been appointed her counsellor. He realised that his first task was to counsel the family and show them that there was no risk to themselves. As a result, Sandra now shares their food, and sits and talks to them. Now that she receives medical treatment as soon as she is sick, Sandra feels well most of the time. She often goes to the TASO day centre and sews hospital sheets. She has been admitted twice more to hospital and, although she gets thinner and a bit weaker each time, her spirit remains strong.

Rosie has been tested and is free from HIV. When her mother dies she will not have the stress of moving. She already has a home and family who will care for her.

Case Study Two

After lunch, Godfrey visits a block of flats near the centre of Kampala. Michael lives here in two small rooms with his wife, six children, his sister and her three children.

Until a year ago Michael worked in a factory and the family lived in a better home. But when he started to become ill he lost his job and he fell behind with the rent. When they were thrown out, he had no choice but to move in with his widowed sister. She sells cakes in the market.

The children run in and take Godfrey’s hand while he talks to Michael and his wife, Franny. Franny feeds the baby, who is bouncy and chuckling, even though she is HIV positive. So is two year old Henry. The other four children are free of the virus.

“Are you both eating well?” Godfrey asks.

“We try to, but with twelve mouths and only the cake money, there isn’t much to go round.”

Godfrey says he will bring more food on his next visit and tells Michael to come and see the Doctor at TASO for some treatment for a rash which is troubling him.

Franny offers Godfrey some tea, but he has other visits to make and leaves, the children all laughing and shouting goodbye.

Further down the dirt road lives Mrs Owagi in a small earth house. A year ago her widowed daughter died of AIDS, leaving two children aged four and five. Her daughter was a TASO client, so TASO now pays the children’s school fees and also brings them soap, eggs, milk, and clothing.

“I don’t know what we would have done without TASO”, she says. “But even so, I worry about when I go. The children are so young.”

TASO was begun by a group of volunteers in 1987. Many of its workers have HIV or AIDS. They know that they may not have long to live. But TASO’s workers have a very positive attitude to living with AIDS.

Taken from the booklet “Living Positively with AIDS” by Janie Hampton – The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO), Uganda.

 

One of the many posters developed by the Ugandan Ministry of Health AIDS Control Programme, UNICEF, Kampala.