Despite continuous counselling through home visits, economic challenges are a major hindrance to better treatment outcomes among people living with HIV in Uganda.
Athieno (not real name) is a 36-year-old single mother who lives in the Eastern division, Tororo municipality, Tororo district. She was enrolled into the OVC program in 2021 together with her three children, of whom two are HIV positive. The two children are HIV positive and on care together with themselves. Last year in September 2022, one child turned out to be a non-suppressor because of a lack of treatment literacy for caregivers and economic challenges.
Athieno was doing casual labour as a major source of income earning 10,000/=. She had no idea that she could use the little money she was earning to start up an income-generating activity because she had no knowledge of home-based business skills and financial literacy. “The social worker advised me that the lack of income is the source of the many issues affecting us; we could miss appointments which made one of my children a non-suppressor. I did not have time for my children because of looking for casual work for survival, we could have one meal a day, and my children could not have school requirements leading to irregular school attendance”. She narrated.
She was taken through business skills and the development of a business plan by a social worker at the household level to equip her with business knowledge and skills. From there she came up with an idea of selling tomatoes and onions where she started with 5,000/= and operated her business from home for one week and attracted very many customers. After starting up an IGA, Athieno was advised by a SW to join VSLA around her area and be taken through financial literacy to improve on her household income. “After seeing that I had many customers, I requested the social worker to link me to a nearby VSLA group to be able to manage my savings”. She said Athieno was linked to Umoja village saving group where she joined and started her weekly savings with 2000/=. She did not give up because she wanted to multiply her money and be able to cater for all household needs and meet her savings goal of building a house.
Due to active participation in the group, the LC1 of Amagoro A South identified the Umoja group as having an impact on the development of his people and linked them to Mavuno, a community church led by a white. The individual assessment was done to group members to identify the level of vulnerability and Athieno was one of the beneficiaries that were supported with start-up capital of 50,000/= which she added to her business of onions, tomatoes, cabbage, silverfish, eggplants and Sukuma. She even shifted to the trading centre and hired a stall with a weekly saving of 8,000/=.
Athieno can now provide for her family with food, pay school fees and also provide them with all her basic needs as a mother. She is so grateful to USAID OVC NE Activity which empowered her with knowledge of home-based business skills and financial literacy which has made her household improve economically, empowered her with treatment literacy which enabled one of her children to adhere better to treatment and eventually achieve Viral Suppression. Athieno is now leading a happy life together with her children.