Meet the 2016 PEPFAR Heroes

Rachael (middle) is a counselor at Mulago Immune Suppressive Syndrome Clinic and a champion in creating friendly clinic environments for HIV-positive adolescents and young adults.

Rachael Abenakyo

Upon starting, Rachael realized that there were limited services for the clinic’s few adolescent patients, so she reached out to her “young crew” to identify the challenges that face HIV-positive adolescents. With this feedback, the clinic now operates a special clinic for HIV-positive young adults, which engages them in friendly activities to promote HIV prevention and empower them in positive living. These efforts have greatly reduced loss due to lack of treatment follow up. Thanks to Rachael, the clinic currently provides care to 813 children, adolescents, and young adults.

Rachael says: “Making 90-90-90 a reality by 2020 greatly depends on ensuring that this population that is neither pediatric nor adult is taken care of. I believe I am doing my bit. I look forward to a day when health services will be streamlined at all facilities to meet the needs of young people.”

Dr. Lilly Achayo Boxtell

After graduating from medical school, Dr. Achayo was recruited by PEPFAR’s SDS program to work at Masafu Hospital, one of the busiest on the Kenya-Uganda border. Due to a shortage of doctors, this hospital would refer the majority of Cesarean section deliveries to Kenya. This resulted in a lot of unregistered maternal deaths, from women who could not afford to travel, as well as a drop off in care for HIV positive mothers and babies. Within a month of Dr. Achayo starting, the maternal health indicators improved. The hospital is now able to handle more emergency births. The amount of children born with HIV has declined from 10% in 2013 to 2% in 2016.

Dr. Achayo says: “I am now at the decision-making level, but I am still based and work at the hospital. I want to see the number of children born with HIV come down to zero, and also reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy in Busia district.”

Florence Kintu

Florence Kintu

Florence is an “unsung hero” in the fight against HIV as the filing clerk at the Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC). JCRC has one of the busiest clinics in Wakiso district, with more than 15,600 patients enrolled on antiretroviral therapy. After starting at the clinic as a cleaner, Florence was promoted to a filing clerk, due to her commitment and service. On a busy day, the clinic has more than 250 patients, and Florence registers each and every one of them. Florence is always the first person to arrive at the clinic in the morning and one of the last ones to leave. She goes above and beyond to support the clinic, whether it’s triaging patients at reception or handling data entry. She loves her job and always has a smile when serving clients.

JCRC says: “Florence is passionate, very committed to her work, and loves patients. Sometimes she puts in extra hours and works on weekends to ensure proper filing. For some patients that are too ill to walk, Florence is always there to extend a hand to them. Florence is an unsung hero!”

Zachariah Jamil Matovu

Matovu is a counselor with a mission to promote the benefits of voluntary male circumcision. Every week, Matovu goes from village to village to talk to boys, men, and women about circumcision – and helps register those who agree to be circumcised. He checks in with clients who undergo circumcision and follows up with those who don’t make their appointments. Through Matovu’s efforts, the Kibuli Police Training School clinic now circumcises more than 50 clients a month. Of the clients who received the first dose of tetanus vaccine in August 2016, 96% returned for the second dose and circumcision. All clients circumcised at the clinic since October 2015 have kept their appointments for post-op follow up, and almost none have experienced adverse effects. Matovu does all this work without any facilitation or incentive. He is driven by a passion to reduce HIV infections.

Matovu says: “Every life matters. We need to make every possible effort to ensure that all people who are not circumcised do so and reduce their chance of contracting HIV/AIDS or passing it on to their partners.”

Vicent Nuwagaba

Vicent is a counselor at Baylor-Uganda who firmly believes that men should be involved in the treatment and care of their HIV-positive children. After noticing that only mothers participated in caring for their children at Baylor, Vicent was inspired by the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” He decided to replicate that model by involving men in their children’s care at Baylor. Vicent initiated peer support meetings for male caretakers to identify why men were not involved. From this, he developed the Men’s Access Club for all men who access care or care for HIV positive children at Baylor. Started in 2013, the Men’s Access Club has normalized men bringing in their children for treatment, increased uptake of HIV counseling and testing, and provided income generating skills to its members. It has also promoted a saving culture among members, as members can pool their savings and loan each other money in times of need.

Vicent says: “Men were quite forgotten a lot. As such, the Men’s Access Clubs could not be timelier. You can see how passionate they are, in attending their meetings and discussing issues that affect them. I’m happy because my men are happy.”