This week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that an HIV-positive Ugandan woman, resisting deportation from the United Kingdom, had no case against her expulsion. According to the court, the unnamed woman's claims that she would not have the same treatment for her illness in Uganda, as she did in Britain, were unfounded. It said the services for HIV positive people in Uganda are as good as they are in the UK.
Uganda Radio Network visited the country's most famous AIDS treatment center, TASO, to find out if there is any truth to the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. Do Ugandans with HIV have the same opportunities for treatment and care as those living abroad?
At the age of 17, Dorcus Ndagire was raped by a family friend and infected with the HIV virus. 23 years later, Ndagire is thankful to be alive.
Speaking at The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) where she has received medication, counseling and support since 1988, Ndagire said she has been transformed from a hopeless orphan to a responsible mother of three. She said her children aged between 2 and 10 years are all HIV negative, she has built a house or herself and is taking care of her sister's ten children.
Every Thursday Ndagire and other HIV positive men and women meet at the TASO offices in Mulago to share their experiences of survival and to receive anti-retroviral drugs, food and psycho-social support from the organization.
In the crowd of those waiting outside the TASO offices was 49-year-old Prossy Nalubowa. Nalubowa's story is of triumph over adversity that begun with the death of her husband in 1987. She said she was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, but she kept her status secret, afraid of stigmatization by her friends and family.
In 1998 Nalubowa couldn't hide the fact that she had AIDS any more. A long illness rendered her bed ridden she became bed ridden. Her brothers and sisters abandoned her, leaving her for dead and divided up her family's property in Kiboga and Kampala, taking it for themselves.
Nalubowa said the road to recovery has been long and hard. She was called a prostitute and a murderer and was shunned by her relatives. However because of the counseling she has received she is able to forgive those who hurt her.
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Prossy Nalubowa is a beneficiary of the ARV program at TASO Mulago. She started receiving the free treatment in 2001 when her CD4 cell count increased.
A CD4 cell count test is essential to monitoring of the course of HIV infection over time and the response to treatment. Under the World Health Organization regulations an HIV positive person is eligible for ARVs once the CD4 count reaches 200.
Dorcus Ndagire and Prossy Nalubowa are two of the 20,000 people benefiting from the ARV Program at TASO. The program is funded by the American Government through the U.S. President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief.
However the openings for new people to join the TASO ARV program are limited.
Robert Nakibumba, the TASO spokesperson, said the organization can only provide support to 20,000 of more than 50,000 eligible clients. He disclosed that about 80,000 people visit the 11 TASO centers countrywide, but not all are on the ARV program.
Before a client is enrolled on the ARV program they must conduct CD4 count test and undergo thorough counseling on the livelong treatment.
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The Ministry of Health estimates that only a third of those requiring ARVs have access to them.
Still, TASO insists this isn't enough to prevent anyone from returning home for fear of missing out on treatment. The argument is based on available support, counseling and treatment from several health organizations and the declining price of the drugs from about one million shillings per monthly dose in the 1990s to about 35,000 shillings today.