Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in Uganda provide HIV care and support victims of sexual and gender-based violence. We also offer sexual and reproductive health services tailored to the younger patients’ needs in our Kasese Youth Clinic.
Our activities in Arua focus on HIV care for children, adolescents, unstable patients and those with advanced-stage disease. This includes point-of-care viral load testing with a view to facilitating rapid detection and early treatment, which have been shown to improve outcomes for patients. In 2021, to adapt to the constraints caused by COVID-19, we increased home visits and supplied patients with longer drug refills.
We also worked with the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Arua to improve treatment for patients with tuberculosis (TB) and multidrug-resistant TB in the hospital’s isolation ward. We also assist with TB screening in the outpatient department and across the West Nile region to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment.
Activities in 2021
In Kasese, our adolescent clinic provides sexual and reproductive healthcare, including ante- and postnatal care for teenage mothers, in a safe, youth-friendly environment. Awareness-raising and recreational activities encourage youngsters to come for consultations and health education. In 2020, these services were moved to a public health facility to facilitate access and decrease stigma.
The COVID-19 pandemic and strict hygiene measures forced the suspension of recreational activities, resulting in slightly reduced attendance. MSF also offers HIV care to the fishing communities around nearby lakes George and Edward, a high-risk group for HIV infection due to time spent away from home, a cash-based income and the presence of sex workers in fishing ports. In collaboration with local authorities and other providers, we tailor HIV services to the specific needs and habits of these communities.
Our HIV project in Arua is integrated into the local HIV care infrastructure and focuses on children and adolescents, and on patients with advanced HIV disease or a high viral load. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we conducted physically distanced consultations. However, we lost contact with our Congolese cross-border patients from March when lockdown measures were implemented and were unable to provide them with medication. While most of our cross-border patients resumed their treatment in July, our efforts to trace around 13 per cent of them were unsuccessful.
Also in Arua, MSF outreach activities support victims of sexual violence in the Omugo and Imvepi refugee settlements, hosting hundreds of thousands of mainly South Sudanese refugees who fled conflict in their homeland. Mental health support for refugees and host communities is available too.
We stand ready to respond to emergencies such as disease outbreaks and displacement caused by natural disasters or violence.