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By Sadab Kitatta Kaaya

Five-year-old Fred Twinomugisha tested HIV positive about four years ago, after the death of his mother, Jessica Tukamuhaabwa.  Due to his deteriorating condition, he was immediately started on anti-retroviral therapy (ART), which he would access from Lwebitakuli Health Centre III, about 15km from his home in Lwendezi village, Lwebitakuli sub-county, Sembabule district.

Godfrey Ngabirano, Twinomugisha’s maternal uncle and guardian, tried in vain to establish contact with the boy’s father.  “My sister [Tukamuhaabwa] died before she could tell us the father of her child,” Ngabirano says. “All the three men who had previously claimed responsibility rejected the boy when they learnt of his HIV status.”

Of the three men, Ngabirano can only identify one Kisuule of Kirebe village and a Ronald of Kasambya village in Lwebitakuli. After they disowned the boy, Ngabirano could not sit back and watch his nephew waste away. He shouldered the responsibility of regularly taking him to Lwebitakuli health centre for ART.

Unfortunately, for the last five months he has not been able to access ARVs at Lwebitakuli after the health centre ran short of supplies.  “I had taken him on his clinic day, but the nurses referred us to Mateete health centre,” Ngabirano says.

Mateete health centre had no drugs either, and health workers there referred them further, to Masaka regional referral hospital. However, this peasant family could not afford the transport fare to Masaka and chose to wait until the district gets new ARVs supplies.

Besides, they might have failed to get assistance from Masaka hospital too, after its CD4 blood count machine broke down recently, leaving hundreds of AIDS patients stranded. Five months on, there remains little hope that ARVs will be brought to a health facility within Twinomugisha’s proximity, yet the effect of the break in treatment is already evident, as the little boy is growing frail.

He moves with a lot of unease as he watches his contemporaries run about the family compound. His body is developing sores, and some on his feet and fingers are open. As a result, his friends avoid him.

“Even if they wanted to play with him, there is no way he can match their pace. Besides, we fear that others could get infected through direct contact with him,” Ngabirano says.

Gloom in Sembabule

Twinomugisha is certainly not the only AIDS patient in the district suffering this way. According to Strides for Family Health, a health promotion NGO in Sembabule, the number of people testing HIV positive is on the rise in the district.

The NGO’s spokesperson, Thadeus Atuhura, puts the prevalence rates in Sembabule at about 40%, according to information gathered in their voluntary counselling and testing programme that is part of Strides’ outreach programme in the district.

“In Lwebitakuli sub-county alone, we have so far tested about 1,000 people, and about 400 of them have tested HIV positive, mainly women and their children,” Atuhura told The Observer.

Source: The Observer

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