The post-test club at Luzira Maximum Security Prison – living positively for ten years
The prevalence rate of HIV in Uganda is 7.1%, with prison communities seeing almost double the rate. Over 800 prisoners in Luzira Prison alone are living with HIV.
This World AIDS Day, we want to stand with those who battle with HIV/AIDS on a daily basis, with those who have lost loved ones from the disease and those who are doing all they can to bring awareness, preventing the discrimination of those who suffer.
World AIDS Day is commemorated each year on 1 December and has been since 1988. This day is dedicated to raising awareness on the HIV/AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died from the disease. Governments and health officials, Non-Governmental Organisations and individuals around the world observe the day, often focusing around educating people about the disease, prevention and control.
African Prisons Project recognise the health challenges faced by the prison community, specifically regarding HIV/AIDS amongst prisoners and prison staff and we're pleased to be joining the prison community in commemorating World AIDS Day; celebrating the strides made in eliminating stigma and encouraging positive living. Through our Health Programme we've been supporting the Post-Test Club, a group of prisoners living with HIV and serving life sentences at Luzira Maximum Security Prison, Uganda.
The Club, founded in 2006, currently consists of 35 members. The club members receive nutritional support and benefit from health awareness sessions provided by APP. Monthly nutritional supplements are provided in order to supplement their prison diet, boosting their immunity and reducing their chances of becoming ill from opportunistic infections. The supplements include foods rich in protein and micronutrients such as silver fish, ground nuts, bananas, fruits and vegetables.
Health awareness sessions focus on Positive Living, emphasising the fact that one can still live positively even behind bars. Topics discussed during these awareness sessions include the importance and contribution of nutrition, physical exercise and social support to one’s health. During some of the sessions, the club members also undergo exercises on coping mechanisms and anger management. Members of the club have seen an improvement in their health and also report on better life-style and wellbeing. The club goes beyond a platform for receiving nutritional supplements and has become a core part of their support system within prison.
Testimonials from Members of the Post-test Club
“When I reached the new environment, I found my fellow prisoners who comforted me. I came to prison when I was already infected by the HIV virus and I was already taking Septrin. I wanted to commit suicide because I saw no reason to live and I was so hopeless. In my mind, I wanted to die and rest from the pressures I was facing.
After one month at prison, I saw some items being brought to our section and immediately I was called and given my share. I was told that every month the Post-Test Club receives food items from a funder called the African Prisons Project who decided to help prisoners living with HIV/AIDS. From that day, I gained some hope and was optimistic, always looking forward to the end of each month.
About a year into my sentence, my CD4 Count was found to be very low and I was immediately started on ARVS in addition to the Septrin I was already taking. However, I got weaker when I started taking the medication and I was admitted to the hospital due to severe anaemia. APP’s nutritional support and regular counselling kept me going. I was told that I should keep away from stigma because it is dangerous and that having HIV/AIDS is not the end of life. I have learnt how to live positively. I partook in a counselling course and I am currently the assistant counsellor at the prison. I also counsel my colleagues who are HIV positive and I am happy that I can give hope and strength to others.
My most recent CD4 count is almost 6 times what it was before and I am feeling healthy!
I am very grateful to APP for their support to the club. When I get out of prison I'll be willing to encourage people in the community to test and know their status and eliminate stigma because most people die due to ignorance.”
—Yusuf, Club Secretary
“I thank the Post-Test Club for taking care of our lives in a prison environment and moreover in condemn section. By the time I came to prison in 2006, I was already infected with the virus and on treatment. I believed that with the kind of food given to us in prison, I was not going to survive - wishing I could die instead.
Later on, I heard that there is a donor who supports inmates living with HIV/AIDS with nutrition support for supplementing on their diet. This gave me courage and hope that I will live and survive.
I really thank APP for that great care because my clan had already abandoned me and I had no reason to live.”
—Gerald, 60 years
“When I had just joined prison, I used to fall sick easily and I was advised by the senior welfare officer that I should go and test my blood since there were no counsellors by then. I still remember that fateful day when I found out that I was HIV positive. I have since been taking ARVs.
I joined Post-Test Club in 2006 when it was introduced. I am privileged to be amongst the first beneficiaries of the club. Before the Post-test club was introduced, my welfare was very poor but ever since I joined, my life changed because of the dietary supplementation and the counselling they offer on monthly basis. Post-Test Club has helped me to live positively without fear. I also counsel people around me who are negative and advise them not to be careless with their lives because HIV is real. I have also learnt how to help in the reduction of HIV incidence by not spreading it.”
—David, 42 years old
“I found out my HIV status 3 years after coming to prison. When my relatives got to know about it, they abandoned me and stopped visiting me because they knew I would be dying soon. Prisoners with HIV used to die more often and when I found out my status I definitely knew I was dying any time soon like my fellow inmates. When I joined the Post-Test Club, I found that they were very organised and I was warmly welcomed in by my fellow inmates. This gave me some hope because I knew I now had a group of people I could rely on. APP became my very first visitor after my family and relatives had given up on me, and I was very hopeful that at the end of every month I would get a visitor with food supplements! This has kept me going indeed!”
“When I tested for HIV and the results came out positive, my heart was troubled and I lost all hope! Many inmates were dying from HIV related diseases. I kept thinking that the same misfortune would befall me as well.
I regained hope through APP. They have supported us with food and spiritual guidance. Ever since APP started supporting us, the death rate has tremendously reduced. APP has restored hope for living amongst inmates. APP has rendered us HIV/AIDS seminars, as well as counselling and guidance. Now, we know how to live positively with HIV/AIDS.
Therefore, with this hope when I go out, I will implement what I have attained and I will be a living testimony.”
—Thaddeus, 43 years old