“Before we did not know if a pregnant woman was infected with HIV/AIDS, but now we have the opportunity to not only have knowledge, but also, and especially to protect the baby from HIV infection,” testifies Kakule Kakwanza, the nurse who runs the health center in Busumba.  It is located in an area that has seen much troop movement and displacement of people in the past twenty years.

Since HEAL Africa trained the staff and provided the testing services at Kakwana, it is now possible to identify and educate mothers on preventing HIV transmission to their children (PMTCT).  It is an entirely voluntary program, but the mothers are happy to have the possibility of knowing their status and how to prevent their children from contracting HIV. “In the month of January 2013, 76 women were seen for pre-natal consultations, 72 of which agreed to be tested for HIV,” explained a nurse in the Busumba based health care center.  The Busumba village has a population of only a few hundred habitants, dispersed amongst a hilly and hard to access region of Masisi, about 100 Km from the city of Goma. Basumba is also home to many internally displaced people.

HEAL Africa offers patients HIV testing, antiretrovirals and prevention medicine. This treatment helps prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child and also fights against opportunistic infections. HEAL Africa also offers staff capacity-building learning opportunities and employs local support staff to help with efforts.

The Busumba health center is one of six health facilities supported by HEAL Africa. Busumba focuses on issues of PMTCT and implements sexually transmitted infections (STIs) programs in the Mweso Kirotshe health zone of Masisi territory.

The multiplicity of armed groups operating in the region contributes to the continuing insecurity. As a result of this, displaced populations are frequently exposed to infection and risk exposure to HIV and AIDS.

“We all need to engage in the village, each at his level, to encourage pregnant women to feel free to access the health center,” explained one of the medical supervisors at HEAL Africa in a meeting with local leaders. Hilaire Lugaba travels to different villages in Masisi to raise awareness among civilians and involve the military in the fight against HIV and AIDS.  His key message is, “Tell the people it is a choice between abstinence, good faith, and correct and consistent use of condoms.”

Through sports, radio shows and community mobilizers, HEAL Africa is able to organize sessions to raise awareness and talk to people about adopting responsible behavior that will protect themselves against HIV infection. “We are trying to mobilize the whole community and we will contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of no more new HIV infections by 2015,” states Hilaire Lugaba.

 

Wassy Kambale

Assistant media, HEAL Africa