This is the day when the world comes together to create awareness about HIV/AIDS. 1st of December every year is World AIDS Day. The 2021 theme is “End inequalities. End AIDS.” But have thought of volunteering to help those with the disease or something like that choosing to volunteer in people affected with the disease I think it’s the best thing ever.
When the COVID-19 pandemic break out the infected people found it different access the health services. The country was in a continuous lockdown which made transport means on standstill. Therefore this made it hard for both the patients and doctors who work in that field and for the patients too. This made them more dependent on assistance. People had difficulty accessing HIV treatment slowed down as the treatment and also HIV testing services. Non-diagnosed new infections were on the rise. The newly diagnosed had not started treatment yet which broke the link to HIV treatment. The global increase in viral load testing slowed considerably. And lastly, closed mental health care support services.
The repeated visits to HIV clinics to collect medicines put at risk of contracting COVID-19. The pressure of dealing with both the HIV and the COVID-19 pandemic caused an impact on the mental health of people living with HIV.
The interrupted hive preventive programs. Preventing vertical transmission programs like Voluntary medical male circumcision, PrEP, and other prevention options were impacted. COVID-19 put many children out of school which has put children’s health. Most especially the girls at higher risk of contracting HIV. The harm reduction access for people who use drugs has been curtailed.
There has been an increase in gender-based violence during the lockdowns. Sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women continue on the streets, in public spaces, and online.
The risk of transmitting HIV to your partner is much higher when you stop taking medication since the viral load will go up. The economic fallout forced patients to make tough choices as some patients were prioritizing food over medicine. This was because taking drugs without eating would make one dizzy and sometimes bring stomach ulcer pains. So one has to wait when food is available and they swallow the meds.
During the COVID -19, some HIV caregivers were delivering food and drugs to their patients and some volunteers ride long distances around Kampala but not everyone could access these essentials.
So the question comes out “how can you volunteer?” And “what should you carry?” When you drink tea with them, hug them, showing them that you care for them you will not get infected with HIV. Choosing volunteers for HIV patients is simply encouraging them to take their drugs as recommended by the doctors this will enable them to remain on drugs and take them at the right time.
Secondly by encouraging them to eat a balanced diet and also providing them with food and related foods like fruits that help in building the immunity to fight other diseases.
Thirdly, you can volunteer by offering guidance and counseling to the patients. This is to help them regain confidence and also to know that somebody else cares for them. Many people when they are told that they have the disease they think they are going to die any time soon. Guidance and counseling restore hope to them in the picture that they can leave longer as those without the disease and that they can work as before.
By offering those clothes and other materials to the patients is also a sign of volunteering. Many affected people don’t have clothes and cannot access most of the basic needs of life. So by choosing to provide them with basic needs you are lying a hand.
In a nutshell, volunteering is the best way of restoring hope to the people affected with HIV as well as the impacts of COVID-19. When tested is the only way to know your status. To reduce the risk use condoms, ensure that your partner who is living with HIV is taking treatment. Furthermore use PrEP to prevent getting HIV if you have ongoing risk. Choose to volunteer, donations and do charities to help those living with HIV. We as Volunteering in Uganda our aim is “Work For A Cause” under our program of HIV/AIDS program. In partnership with Love Uganda Foundation, Tuyambe, and Love Uganda Safaris we can change people’s lives for the better.