Meet & Greet: "It is possible to support a family simply by linking them up to opportunities"

June 30, 2015

Richard Ochen has been managing Health Need Uganda for the past 18 years. His organisation is one of the 5 implementing partners of the Towards an AIDS Free Generation (TAFU) program. “In this program I see it as my role to ensure that a health care system responds to the HIV needs of (pregnant) women and children. Besides that I ensure that interventions that were planned are documented, shared and replicated. We have to develop a system that can be applied in any part of the country for policy change." Meet Richard!

Richard Ochen, Health Need Uganda 

The system and policies are in place, we need to make these things work

It is motivating to work in Uganda, where the health care structure and policies are in place. We have updated guidelines for option B+ and for paediatric HIV treatment for all children with HIV below 15 years. We have trainings manuals for health staff in clinics. The missing link is connecting to the clinics, especially at community level.

The biggest barrier to PMTCT and paediatric HIV treatment? To me that is lack of clients satisfaction at the lowest levels health facilities The Village Health Teams are the frontline soldiers in healthcare. They can ensure the women go to the clinic for testing and treatment and can assist them in follow up. But in many rural districts lower level health workers are not trained in management of paediatric HIV care and PMTCT services. The lower level referral system is not properly functioning as expected. The outpatient departments, testing and paediatric treatment services are limited to higher level health facilities, and far away from rural communities. 

The strength of the TAFU program  is in working with the lower level health care system, while at the same time building the capacities of communities and families to dealing with the day-to-day challenges of families access to HIV treatment and care. 

Taking time to explain how the system works, can make a big difference

Sometimes we just take time to explain how the system works, and that can make a big difference. If  for example clients know when drugs are delivered to a clinic,  they can plan when to pick-up the drugs. This can prevent annoyance, that often comes because of lack of awareness. 

Let me share the case of a family that was struggling for their day-to-day survival. The challenge they had was to access HIV treatment for their children. They faced inadequate access to nutritious food and lack of income. The family was identified during a village health event and we arranged right there the appointments at the health clinic for this family. Then we ensured that the health worker in the clinic paid special attention to the family in terms of HIV treatment. Then we also ensured that the family received follow-up visits and linked to existing economic support groups. So what I am trying to say is ‘ It is possible to support a family simply by linking them up to opportunities.’ 

Health Need Uganda
is a community based organization in Eastern Uganda that supports people’s’ aspirations in health, livelihood and education, bettering their life and empowering them to actively participate and contribute towards a better life. Health Need Uganda is one of the 5 implementing organisations in the TAFU program. 

Towards an AIDS free Generation in Uganda (TAFU) program aims to reduce the number of new HIV infections among infants and to increase the number of HIV-positive children on treatment in 5 districts in Uganda. 

This article was published in the STOP AIDS NOW! e-news June 2015: Elimination of HIV infections in children and keeping mothers alive