HIV And COVID-19: Keeping Safe And Productive In The New Normal

Wells of Hope staff sharing a picture with the caregivers and facilitators from Aids Information Centre (AIC) on September 2nd

COVID-19 has affected the dreadfully. When the pandemic broke out in Uganda (March 2020), the families of the children with parents in prison went into panic; they expressed a lot of worry especially those living with HIV.

Annually, the organization conducts workshops where the caregivers meet, share ideas and are encouraged to cope with having a loved one in prison. This time around, the workshop was aimed at helping the caregivers cope with living with HIV; HIV Prevention and Care; reminding them about the COVID-19 safety measures and coping during the current situation. 14 caregivers actively participated in the workshop; it was held on September 2nd with the theme HIV And COVID-19:Keeping Safe And Productive In The New Normal. While maintaining the COVID-19 Standards of Operation Procedures, the organization plans to hold more sessions for the other caregivers of the children as well.

The topics facilitated about included: Keeping Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic; Parenting and VSLA (Village Saving and Loan Association) Training.

Ellen Eva Ssuubi, Wells of Hope’s Executive Director appreciated the caregivers for turning up for the meeting and their continued cooperation. She urged the caregivers to continue practicing the safety measures.

Ellen Eva Ssuubi, Wells of Hope’s Executive Director giving opening remarks

The caregivers shared how they are coping during the current situation, their lessons, challenges and concerns. This was mainly done in groups and was facilitated by Marjorie Lunkuse Lwanga, Wells of Hope’s Deputy Executive Director.

Marjorie Lunkuse, Wells of Hope’s Deputy Executive Director facilitating about COVID-19 Safety Measures

During the group session, the caregivers shared how they’re coping during this time of COVID-19. Some of the challenges they shared included: loss of jobs yet they have to meet their families’ needs and some can no longer pay rent.

They also shared that they can no longer access their loved ones in prisons because prisons are closed to any visitors. The caregivers shared that due to the increase in transport fares (public means now carry half the number of passengers they used to carry before COVID), it’s difficult for them to reach health centres or hospitals (especially the caregivers adhering to Anti-Retroviral Treatment). However, they learnt to save, maintain hygiene and to spend more time with their children. Marjorie encouraged caregivers to take care of their children and also teaching them about God.

During the Parenting session, Agnes Nanungi Namubiru, a Social Entrepreneur and Motivational Speaker from Alliance In Motion encouraged the caregivers to Believe in themselves, to work and to take care of their children. “Find what you can do. Add value to yourself. No one is going to force you to work; find your inner value and passion and do something,” Agnes said. “As long as you’re alive, you can do something. God designed us for something we want to be. All we have to do is believe,” she added.

Agnes Nanungi Namubiru, a Social Entrepreneur and Motivational Speaker from Alliance In Motion facilitating about Parenting

She encouraged the caregivers to befriend people who add value. She urged them not to make children suffer because of what their spouses did.

During Financial Literacy, the caregivers were educated about Village Saving and Loans Association (VSLA), Selection, Planning and Management (S.P.M,) Finance literacy and bank linkages.

Gloria Nakangu, Wells of Hope’s Assistant Programs Officer facilitating about Village Saving and Loan Association (VSLA)

The caregivers were taught that for a business to run, they need to consider five modules which included:

  1. What’s required to start the business
  2. Capital
  3. Ability to operate the business
  4. Whether people will like the business
  5. Whether people will like the things being sold or not.

The caregivers were cautioned to differentiate between a Need and a Want. They were encouraged to always use banks in case there is insecurity of where they keep their money, if saving boxes are not safe for them and also if there is no trust among themselves.

Jacqueline Nakinda, Wells of Hope’s Finance/Admin Assistant facilitating about Saving

During the HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT) session, Sandra Kigozi from Aids Information Centre (AIC), shared ways how HIV is spread and these included:

  1. Through sex.
  2. When mothers are giving birth.
  3. Kissing someone with a bleeding gum.

She encouraged the caregivers to Abstain or Be faithful to their partners and to use Condoms whenever engaging in sexual activities. She demonstrated how to use self-test kit to test for HIV.

Sandra Kigozi of Aids Information Centre demonstrating how to use an HIV Self Test kit

She said that the kit was developed to ease the testing process; some people are not able to go to medical centres for tests due to a couple of reasons like their busy work schedules. She said that in such scenarios, anyone can do a self-test and follow up with AIC or any medical centre for advice.

A caregiver undergoing an HIV Test

During the workshop, the caregivers expressed their gratitude towards all Wells of Hope’s sponsors for the support rendered to them by continuing to avail educational material to their children even when schools are still closed. They were extremely grateful for the supplies they received especially when COVID had just broken out.

Below were some of the highlights:

  • Mary, a formerly incarcerated mother said, “Wells of Hope is not only supporting children, but is also supporting women who are from prison by taking care of them, rehabilitate them and also connect them to their families. I don’t know how I can ever give to this organization to express my sincere gratitude for filling the gap of taking care of my children when I was in prison; May God bless you all abundantly!” 
  • Sharon shared how grateful she was to the organization for getting her daughter Gladys work at the organization to make her busy as she waits for Universities to re-open.
  • Suzan was extremely grateful to Wells of Hope for offering supporting and giving advice to children who completed secondary (high school) as they applied for higher education at university level. Suzan’s son is among the students who completed secondary (senior six) in 2019; and he’s looking forward to pursuing a career in Economics.
  • Mukasa frank, said that Wells of Hope has provided them with various trainings like parenting and VSLA   and other workshops meeting about HIV/AIDs and COVID 19 pandemic, and they got to know their health status after testing for HIV/AIDs.

The caregivers are more hopeful that they will make it through the current situation; they shared that with the knowledge (healthy and financial) they’ve gained, they will be able to keep applying the COVID-19 safety measures in their homes, adhere to ART (Anti-Retroviral Treatment) and manage their finances better.

They expressed their fears and some of these included: whether children will go back to school, where they will stay because they can no longer afford money for; rent, food and household needs.

The Executive Director thanked the caregivers for [participating in the workshop and she cautioned the caregivers to adhere to Ministry of Health guidelines about COVID 19 as they continue praying to God for safety.

The caregivers were extremely happy after receiving clothes from Unilever Uganda. “I never expected anything like this especially during this time! I left home empty-handed and I am going back with something for my children!” a mother exclaimed.

We thank all our sponsors for their continued support!

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