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As Part of Uganda’s COVID-19 Response, Local Health Volunteers Are Saving Lives

In Uganda, communities have years of experience with epidemics like Ebola and HIV, and can draw on their rich shared history to support their families and communities in this crisis. Patrick’s service to his community is a symbol of Ugandan resilience. Photo by Irene Mirembe for IntraHealth International.

One volunteer is making sure his HIV and TB patients continue their medication amid COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Wiasana Patrick Were is a case manager at Busolwe Hospital in Butaleja district, Uganda, where new lockdowns due to COVID-19 have resulted in travel restrictions. That means clients who live with HIV and tuberculosis (TB) in Patrick’s community are having difficulty accessing those services, and people with urgent medical needs are having a hard time getting to facilities.  

Without routine services, adhering to medication is harder. The results for clients can be unsuppressed viral loads and low immunity—rendering them vulnerable to other infections. 

Patrick knew he had to do something. He sought consent from clients in his community to deliver antiretrovirals (ART) to their doorsteps no matter the distance. Patrick rides his bicycle for six kilometers every day from his home to Busolwe Hospital, where he picks up medicine to deliver to clients who are staying in their homes. 

“I have found joy doing my bit of saving lives—delivering essential medicine for clients through home visits during the lockdown,” Patrick says. 

The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has had a significant impact in the eastern region of Uganda, where IntraHealth International works hand-in-hand with local communities to help them stay resilient during the pandemic—especially in HIV/TB response. Through the USAID-funded Regional Health Integration to Enhance Services in Eastern Uganda (RHITES-E) project, IntraHeath works to reduce the disease burden on the health care system.  

RHITES-E quickly adapted to ensure continuity of care for its HIV and TB clients, working closely with the government of Uganda to make temporary changes in policy that allow children, adolescents, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and adults access to uninterrupted essential HIV services, while also minimizing clients’ interactions with health care facilities and health workers during COVID-19. 

RHITES-E provides medicine, bicycles, and car fleets, as well as training, continuous mentorship, and monthly stipends for essential service providers like Patrick. 

“RHITES-E is using its vehicles to support the Ministry of Health to transport medicine for people in urgent need of HIV or TB treatment,” says Henry Isogoli, assistant district health officer and member of the Butaleja COVID-19 response task force. “Through their essential service provision, like transportation, we are able to reach our clients who are having trouble getting to health facilities.”  

Thanks to his efforts, Patrick has delivered medicine to 12 clients in his community, saving them stress and worry. They can now focus on their health because they know Patrick has their back.  

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