Seeing mothers giving birth to HIV free children is my happiness- Mirembe
By Hope Mafaranga 15, June,2011
Many refer to her as musawo (doctor) while others regard her as Senga (auntie) because of her effort in helping women to reduce the rate of mothers to child transmission of HIV/Aids and endless encouraging them to give birth in health facilities.
Evelyn Mirembe a volunteer at Kagadi hospital in Kibale district said that she choose to care for mothers exposed to HIV after knowing her HIV status 15 years ago.
Mirembe discovered that she was HIV at a time when awareness about the epidemic was not enough and people could not talk about the disease openly and stigma was at its peak.
Mirembe who was born in Bukulula in Masaka district in Central Uganda disclosed that she had to run away from home so that she hides away from people who knew about her status.
“I had to run away from home so that I will die in different area where no body knew about me and my body will be taken back home for burial,” she adds..
Mirembe under went trainings by the International HIV/Aids Alliance in Kagadi she is responsible of counseling mothers before and after antenatal care.
She says that she knew, she was the one to help them and make a change in the lives of mothers living with HIV and help them have children free from HIV.
“Children are at my heart, I love children so much and I know it’s me to help them from getting the deadly virus from their mothers,” Mirembe said.
The 42 year old, follows up mothers in her community as soon as she notices that a mother is pregnant and sensitizing women of preparation during pregnancy until giving birth.
“I teach them how to prepare early and encourage them to shop for the unborn babies because at times labour comes when there no cash to buy the items needed,” she says.
Even when they give birth, Mirembe does not give up on them but follows up their children from the age of 0- 7 days and teach the mothers how to breastfeed, hygiene and general cleanness of the child.
Mirembe also works as village health team and treat diarrhea, malaria and cough in children from the age of five and below.
“ I have to know people who give birth in the community because its part of my task to advise and teach the mothers on how to have give birth to health babies because I know a health child is every woman’s happiness,” she says.
She takes her job with passion of a woman who has seen it all, telling mothers openly about the relevance of testing and knowing their HIV status while pregnant.
Through Counseling, Mirembe also calm down the fear of mothers about the virus and what the outcome of the test whether positive or negative and its implications.
Mirembe said that she follows up HIV positive expectant mothers when their pregnancies are eight moths, counselors them as a way of preparing them on how to go about giving birth to a health baby.
She encourages pregnant women on Antiretroviral (ARVs) to continue taking drugs to save their children from getting HIV.
“When a mother is HIV positive and on ARVs, I keep on monitoring her until she gives birth. At the time of delivery I have to make sure that she is given a tablet to prevent her baby from getting the virus,” she says.
Zaitun Birungi 23, a resident of Kagadi town council says that Mirembe helped her when she was five months pregnancy and she was malnourished and almost dying.
“I was dying because, I was totally malnourished and had no blood but Mirembe enrolled me on drugs and diet I am now living and I have a health baby,” Birungi says.
Birungi said that when she gave birth, Mirembe took her baby for a dry blood spot (DBS) test to certain the Sero status of her child. DBS is an HIV test done in children below two months.
An inspiration to mothers living with HIV
Rose Kemigisa a resident of Rugashari said that she had given up with life, when Mirembe disclosed her HIV status she started on medication.
“I am taking ARVs because Mirembe is also talking them. I know we resemble and have a similar problem so I find it easy to confine in her and share our experiences,” Kemigisa a mother of six said.
How she works
Mirembe identifies pregnant mothers from communities and talk to them in a friendly manner on the advantage of attending an antenatal care while the pregnancy is still young.
She also tells them on the danger of not delivering from health facilities. She gives mothers information about safe delivery PMTCT.
Mirembe also go to schools and sensitize the youth about HIV/Aids and on radio to talk about HIV and every Tuesday s and Thursday s find her at the clinic.
Mirembe appeals to government and well wishers to come and help children orphaned by HIV and those living positively and heading families.
She says that Kagadi hospital has 320 children whop are accessing ARV. She however said that sometimes the hospital runs out of septrins and children can not afford to buy on open markets due to lack of money.
“Like now, we don’t have septrin, all children who wanted septrin have not taken and they will get next month. This exposed them to opportunistic diseases and affects their health as well,” she says.
Mirembe’s most motivation is seeing HIV mothers delivering health babies and getting back on their feet.
Knowing that she is HIV positive and using it to make a change in people live keep her going and encouraged to help more people cop with the HIV virus.
Her duty has earned her friends and taken her to place and won her a certificate in recognition of her effort in the fight against HIV.
Mirembe also says that her duty has kept her busy and does not think about HIV.
Helping others to copy with HIV.
“Some people take drugs because of me,” she says.
She also got a sponsorship for her daughter to study nursing in Kibale district. Challenges
Mirembe says that the biggest challenge is transport to get her to the hospital and other areas where she goes to talk to mothers because is a volunteer and is not paid any money to execute her duties.
She says it hard for follow patience in urban areas because some relocate to other rented houses while others go back to their villages to wait for their death. She says that in the rural areas, access to treatments becomes a problem challenge posing a health and live threats to mothers and their unborn babies.