Rose (not real name) is a slender, medium height forty-two-year-old woman who dropped out of school in primary three because her father could not afford paying her school fees. She is a mother of six but only two are still living. The four died of mysterious illnesses when they were young. She has been in four marriages but separated with all the men due to misunderstandings. In 2013, Rose boldly decided to leave the village for Kampala to do business so as to take care of her two children.
However, in 2014, Rose realized that day after day she was losing weight, had on and off fevers and a generalized skin rash yet neither smokes nor takes alcohol. She received treatment from nearby clinics, but there was no improvement. When she decided to have an HIV test on 10th January 2014, it turned out positive. Surprisingly, she says these results didn’t shock her because she already knew that one of her husbands had died of HIV.
She was enrolled into the ROM cohort, initiated on ART and co-trimoxazole preventive therapy on 24th June 2015. That time, her baseline CD4 cell count was 350 cells/µl. Nevertheless, she is so thankful for the support she got from her family. “HIV is a terrible disease, when I was diagnosed with HIV in 2014, my family, friends and counsellors encouraged me, and told me not to lose hope.” Rose explained,
In 2017 and 2019, Rose was treated for tuberculosis and she successfully completed the two months intensive and four months continuation phases. She markedly improved, felt better and was very happy about it.
Despite the above, she became unwell in May 2022, with difficulty in breathing and she looked very sick and weak. With support from Reach Out Mbuya, Rose was admitted at Mulago hospital with severe respiratory distress. She was started on treatment and managed to progress on treatment very well. She now picks her refills regularly and her ART adherence is very good. Today, Rose’s viral load is suppressed to less than 1000 copies/ml.
“When I started taking ART, I felt improvement almost immediately, Rose recalls. As I saw my first glimmers of hope, I began to feel more and more healthy.” She added
She adds that at first, she was very scared of taking ART and anti-TB drugs at the same time, at first because of the pill-burden, but when she was counselled, she gained courage and took the drugs. She happily shares that this made her feel much better, gained weight, and started leaving a normal life. Her memory of the time she almost died make her so grateful for the counselling, care and support she has received at the ROM clinic.
Rose’s story is just one of hundreds of patients whose lives have been changed by ROM’s comprehensive HIV interventions, including the nutritional support. Today, Rose advises every patient with HIV to adhere to treatment. She wonders how she would have gotten through her HIV and TB illnesses without the support she received at ROM, for ARVs have become familiar and an important part of her everyday life.
Written by Dr. Gertrude Namale, the Medical Services Manager at ROM