Coach Obua rents bike to deliver HIV medicines to less privileged in total lockdown

Sunday April 12 2020

Obua marks a consignment before he del

Obua marks a consignment before he delivers ARVs to a client in Namugongo - a suburb of Kampala City last week. PHOTO BY GEORGE KATONGOLE 

By GEORGE KATONGOLE

KAMPALA- Since 2007, Godfrey Lubangakene Obua has been on HIV and Aids medication despite diagnosing with the virus since childhood. But it was the support of the late Moses Okurut that made him adhere to the drugs.

But he has realised that many HIV-positive people have difficulty in travelling to the clinic themselves. Apart from the long lines, many fear to go to nearby health centres for treatment for fear of stigmatization.

So when Obua was seated in office when President Yoweri Museveni banned public transport as a measure to curb the possible spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The 23-year-old, who is a Teenage and Adolescents Supporter at Reach Out Banda, tried contacting his 154 clients to make plans of picking medication to take them through the lockdown period.

“As a supporter, it is your role to take care of your clients’ wellbeing concerning suppression of the viral load, adherence to drugs and counselling. I was concerned how they would get their medication in these times,” Obua said in an interview. “But not all of them managed to pick their drugs leaving the vulnerable,” adds Obua.

Birth of an idea
That is when he had an idea: Why not start home medicine delivery service?
He made some research and found out that riding on a bicycle would not cause any dangers to him. He was desperate to deliver the drugs. “It only needs local knowledge and since I have been doing home visits to most of the clients, I knew what to do.”

Many HIV-positive people across the country fail to take their HIV medication consistently, leading to easily preventable sickness and death. Having no drugs would make them more vulnerable.

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Reach Out Mbuya has thrived on HIV “adherence clubs” which basically are support groups that often meet patients routinely. But monthly Antiretroviral therapy (ART) treatment is done at the clinics in Mbuya, Kinawattaka and Banda.And Obua’s intervention, which might be the first of its kind at Reach Out: a bicycle-based, HIV medicine delivery service was born.

Rented bicycle
The youth coach at Slums Soccer Academy in Banda has for the past two weeks been renting a bicycle from a friend for Shs10,000 each day to pedal through various neighbourhoods to make the deliveries.

With little traffic on the roads, he does not mind about cars and boda-bodas but getting used to the long distances, sometimes having to go without food and water as well as questions at the clinic for huge amounts of drugs he is requesting, being able to rent the bike for longer if the lockdown extends is his biggest hazard. He has only once been questioned by a policeman in Namugongo on why he was indoors but he was wearing his work ID which he ensures to remove whenever he approaches a client’s home.

On delivery, he ensures that he chats with the client for some minutes to be able to report to the clinic. But he is still baffled at how progress of viral loads can be followed because that is work done at the labs and not in the field.

gkatongole@ug.nationmedia.com

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