By John Ogulei
The AIDS Support Organization- TASO in Teso Sub Region is currently struggling to locate some of its HIV positive clients as Soroti Centre starts home deliveries of Antiretroviral Treatment, ART to patients.
The TASO Office started the deliveries of ART drugs to positive patients after the Ugandan government announced a ban on public and private transport, inter-district travels, and the closure of all educational institutions and public entertainment facilities such as bars and cinemas and enforcement of a national curfew.
Uganda is currently implementing its second lockdown measures with the first being in March 2020 and the second one from 18th June 2021 for the next 42 days.
Uganda has a decentralized health system whereby sub-national units known as districts retain overall responsibility for social service provision.
According to Dr Winfred Acham, the TASO Soroti Medical Services Technical coordinator, 70 percent of their clients are unable to visit the Centre for drugs due to the lockdown.
Dr. Acham reveals that whereas the facility has secured transport for staff to deliver drugs to all the clients locked up in the villages, it has become difficult for them to deliver drugs to some clients who have used fake names during the time of enrolment.
Among those affected are the elderly, clients in distant places and the vulnerable.
“Data tracing on each person Living with HIV and receiving care is limited as most clients used fake names during the enrolment,” Noted Dr. Acham.
“The other challenge encountered with home-based deliveries is that of stigma. You are talking to a patient on the phone trying to locate exactly where they are after arriving in their neighborhood. He is saying ‘I am nearby. I am around’. But because there are many people in the vicinity he fears to be seen approaching a TASO-branded vehicle. Many times we would go back with their medication packages and leave in frustration” Added Dr. Acham
TASO Soroti Centre was established in 2005. To date, it has served over 17,000 people living with HIV and their families in the communities of Soroti, Katakwi, Kumi, Amuria, Kapelebyong, Bukedea, Kalaki, Serere, Ngora and Kaberamaido districts; nearly 7,000 of these patients are on ART.
One of the beneficiaries of home deliveries in Asuret Sub County, Soroti District who preferred anonymity says the service by TASO has given her hope and courage to live on.
“When the lockdown was announced, I knew my life had been cut short. I couldn’t imagine walking to town amid tight security to access drugs but I was relieved when my counsellor informed me that somebody was bringing my drugs. The initiative is very helpful”, she said.
“For us we have gone to the extent of encouraging patients to join CDDPs or receiving their drugs from the community. The Covid-19 crisis helped us so much in getting patients to accept to join CDDPs. We intensified health talks especially during Covid-19 lockdown to encourage patients who hadn’t yet joined, to join CDDPs near where they live,” noted one of the peer leaders in Kamuda Sub County Soroti District.
ARVs/ART are drugs for life and skipping any medication increases the risk of developing drug resistance which might force the client to change treatment according to scientists.