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Overcoming Stigma and Rebuilding a Family: A Child Living with HIV’s Journey to Suppressed Viral Load

Child Living with HIV (CLHIV) (KT-08/PA-0132-01) with high viral load copies (234,471) finally suppressed with less copies (159) after various engagements with the caregiver, social worker, parasocial worker and the health team of Panyangara HC III.

Naduk (not real names) is the mother and primary caregiver of Lotee (not real names), a child living with HIV (CLHIV). Naduk breastfed Lotee  up to age two without realizing that prolonged breastfeeding could expose the child to HIV. As a result, Lotee suffered from various illnesses until health workers at Panyangara Health Center III in Kotido District conducted an HIV test, which confirmed the child’s HIV-positive status.

The news came as a shock to the family, especially Lotee’s father, Lokori (pseudo name). On realizing that his son had contracted HIV from the mother, Lokori started accusing Naduk of infidelity, assuming that she had acquired the virus from someone else. He pointed the figure at her and blamed her for bringing the virus into their home.The accusations led to acts of family neglect, abandonment and finally, Lokori chased Naduk out of the home together with Lotee.

The stigma and discrimination that Naduk experienced because of her HIV status were overwhelming. She felt like an outcast in her own community and was scared of seeking treatment for fear of being exposed, but her health and that of Lotee was deteriorating rapidly.

Enrolled to USAID Orphans and Vulnerable Children North East Activity

When Lotee was enrolled onto the  USAID OVC North East Activity program, he had a viral load copies of 234,471 because he had not received ART treatment.

This urgent situation required prompt intervention to prevent it from worsening. Lotee was initiated into treatment to revamp his health.

As the primary caregiver of a CLHIV, Naduk was also enrolled in the OVC program. This was mainly to support her in coping with the stigma associated with HIV and to educate her on how to provide proper care for Lotee including adherence to treatment. After the enlightenment, Naduk suggested involving Lokori in these discussions. The discussion resulted in a family reconciliation and enabled them accept their status. Naduk now has  control of her family’s health and well-being and responsible for collecting the family’s refill.

Adherence and suppression

The USAID OVC NEA program provided comprehensive services, including medical care and social support to Lotee’s family. As part of the intervention, the program assisted in improving the family’s economic situation through guiding Lokori to identify sources of income to enable him carry out his role as the breadwinner of the family. He was able to provide healthy food and the family’s nutrition status improved.

“Since we were enrolled into the OVC program and engagement dialogues by the Social Worker and the health facility team, the relationship with my husband has greatly improved. What makes me happy is how my husband is able to take the initiative of picking drugs for all of us because our area is insecure and it is not safe for movement.” Naduk stated.

As the result of the intervention, Lotee’s health has improved tremendously and he was finally able to suppress with less viral load copies (159)


Agnes Tumuheire

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