Lira Infectious Disease Clinic (LIDC) Clients Association’s thanksgiving ceremony reinforces the need to end discrimination against HIV-positive clients

On the sunny morning of January 30, 2016, the vibrant LIDC association members marched through the streets of Lira town chanting songs of hope, love and the end of HIV discrimination as they headed to AkiiBua stadium to celebrate their thanksgiving ceremony.  The Association—consisting of more than 10,000 persons living positively—includes children, adolescents and adults accessing care and treatment services at Lira Regional Referral Hospital (RRH).  This was the first ever gathering of HIV-positive clients in the Lango sub-region.

LIDC Association clients marching in Lira town. Photo credit; @URC 2016 USAID/SUSTAIN/ Julian Natukunda

The thanksgiving ceremony attracted at least 5,000 Association members. This ceremony was a show to give back the love that clients experience while in care to the healthcare workers for their tireless efforts in service delivery, the Ministry of Health/Government of Uganda and the USAID/Strengthening Uganda’s Systems for Treating AIDS Nationally (SUSTAIN) project. In addition, the ceremony was to create awareness and acceptance of HIV-positive clients in the community.

The Resident District Commissioner of Lira, Mr. Emmanuel Mwaka Lutukomoi, was the Chief Guest of the event.

Joining their counterparts in the awareness campaign, HIV-positive groups from neighboring Apac and Kole districts also took centre stage in sharing testimonies and experiences.

“We have come to show solidarity in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Widows in Kole district still suffer from discrimination and loss of property after their husbands have died. We came to join in the struggle to urge communities to accept us as part of their communities,” said a woman representative (name withheld) of the People Living with HIV/AIDS in the Kole district.

“We are ready to kick out HIV/AIDS in Lira and Lango sub-region through creating awareness on positive living. In fact, once you start and adhere to medication, one's life is no different from a person who is HIV-negative” said, Chairman LIDC Clients Association.

Other activities during the celebration were role plays, poems, and songs on positive living and discordant relationships in families.

Role play on discordant relationships. The family in picture had only one child who tested HIV-negative while other members tested positive to HIV. Photo credit; @URC 2016 USAID/SUSTAIN/ Julian Natukunda

While delivering his speech, the Chief guest assured the LIDC Association Members of the district and government support, especially in the provision of social services.

“I am an orphan from HIV/AIDS because I lost my mother to the battle against HIV/AIDS. I am therefore part of you and will advocate for you. I will organize a fundraising where everyone will contribute to providing social support to the orphaned, widows and anyone who is struggling to have a decent life,” said Mr. Lutukomoi in his speech.

Lira RRH is one of the high volume healthcare facilities supported by USAID/SUSTAIN project. The LIDC has enrolled up to 13,000 clients on antiretroviral therapy with 10,000 clients active in care. The hospital's HIV prevalence reduced from 12% in 2011 to its current rate of 6.7% (USAID/SUSTAIN Report, 2011), thanks to USAID working through the SUSTAIN project and MOH.

Some of the healthcare workers that were recognized at the function. From left to right; LIDC patron and Clinical care coordinator DR. Boniface Bongonyinge, Nursing Officer at ART Clinic sr. Susan Aciro, and the expert client. Photo credit; @URC 2016 USAID/SUSTAIN/ Julian Natukunda

Clients dance and celebrate with the Guest of honor at AkiiBua stadium, Lira RRH. Photo Credit; @URC 2016 USAID/SUSTAIN/ Julian Natukunda

 

Written by Julian Natukunda,  Communications Specialist, USAID/ SUSTAIN Project