In Uganda, approximately one million people are living with HIV, including more than 110,000 children under 15 years old. The higher prevalence in northern Uganda, in particular, has been primarily linked to the prolonged civil war that forced local people into Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps for over 20 years. During this time, the spread of HIV was fueled by living conditions in the camps, the decline in education and health facilities, and the inability of families to make a living or produce food.
While progress has been made in preventing new HIV infections and in lowering the annual number of AIDS-related deaths, the number of youth living with HIV and the number of children who are exposed to HIV-positive mothers still remain at critical levels.
In 2007, Medical Teams International implemented an HIV/AIDS project in Ogur Sub County in northern Uganda. The project goal was to decrease HIV infections among youth and to increase access to preventive care and treatment services for resettled youth in this region.
A young woman from Ogur is tested for HIV at the OYICC.
Prior to the creation of the Ogur Youth Information & Care Center (OYICC), the only available health center in this region had inadequate and inconsistent testing and treatment supplies, and no youth-friendly services. OYICC focused on providing care to children and youth ages 10-24, with the majority of clients 19 years of age or younger. Services included: HIV counseling and testing, treatment of sexually transmitted and opportunistic infections, post-exposure prophylaxis, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, antenatal care, psychosocial support, recreational activities, and education on adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Training was made available for peer educators, community and church leaders to promote reproductive health and gender equity.
With enthusiastic support from the local community, huge numbers of youth participated in the project and sought care through the center. The center exceeded its youth usage targets in the first three months after it opened, and beyond its walls, more than 37,000 youth participated in HIV community programming, prevention activities and youth mentoring programs carried out in partnership with local churches.
Project outcomes from 2007-2010 included:
- The project reached a cumulative total of 37,118 youth beyond the planned target of 20,000 youth.
- The OYICC tested a cumulative total of 18,209 clients, a majority of which were females (11,374).
- During the life of the project 1,476 youth with STIs and 2,144 youth with opportunistic infections received treatment. This exceeds the planned target by more than 140%.
- A total of 2,177 young mothers benefited from antenatal care services.
- Through Home and Community Testing) outreach program and facility-based laboratory services clinic, the OYICC also registered a total of 120 babies born to HIV + mothers.
The continuing need, and the support and encouragement of partners like you, compelled us to do more. In the second phase of the project, we set our sights on providing treatment and care to 100% of the youth and children who came to the clinic, providing increased psychosocial support, and offering safe male circumcision services as part of comprehensive HIV prevention package. Over the course of the past three years, the project met nearly all identified objectives, became a trusted resource in the community, and considered a safe and welcome place for youth to learn and access treatment.
MTI OYICC Project Manager Ronald Adam visits an HIV positive youth who is supported by clinic activities.
Project outcomes from 2010-2013 included:
The project provided testing services to a total of 16,500 children and youth.
- Over 2,200 youth were counseled and referred for family planning services.
- 17,500 children and youth were reached psychosocially by the youth center spiritual counselor and church leaders.
- Cumulatively, over 10,000 children & youth were treated for opportunistic and sexually transmitted infections.
As the project transitions, ongoing activities at the center include linking affected families to churches in their communities for support and using the center as meeting space for HIV health trainings, church and support groups. All medical services previously offered by MTI will continue to be offered at the nearby Ogur Health Center under the direction of the Government of Uganda Ministry of Health
Thank you again for your support of this vitally important and impactful project. Your generosity and compassion will have a lasting impact in the health and future of the young people of Northern Uganda! Story by Angela Pratt