Namulindwa Rose: 15 Years of PEPFAR Care and Still Patient 0001
Namulindwa Rose lost her husband to AIDS in 2000—though she had no idea at the time that this was the cause. “I was devastated; I had spent a month taking care of him in Nsambya Hospital (in Uganda’s capital, Kampala),” Rose recalls. “Then, when I learned that he had died of AIDS, I was advised to test for HIV at Nsambya Home Care (NHC).” The test came back positive for HIV. “It was overwhelming,” Rose says. “I actually became mentally ill.” Thankfully, NHC followed up with her, and she was eventually admitted into care in December 2003 with a CD4 count (a marker used to measure the strength of the immune system and the progression of HIV disease) near zero.
At that time, NHC was unable to provide antiretroviral therapy (ART). Patients could only access ART from Nsambya Hospital’s private clinic where Rose was enrolled with financial support from friends and family. ART was cost-prohibitive for Rose outside of the private clinic care. Then, in 2004, thanks to the establishment of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), NHC began providing free ART. By August, Rose was enrolled in NHC’s treatment program. “On August 3, 2004—I still remember because I was so excited—I woke up very early in the morning and was the first client at the clinic,” Rose says. “That is why I am client number 0001, because I was the first PEPFAR ART client at NHC.” She adds, “my health was restored. I’m now strong and my virus is undetectable. I am very happy; I live each day just like any other person because the drugs are not a burden but just part of my life like a prayer I say every morning.”
Thanks to PEPFAR, which provides support through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its faith-based implementing partner Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau, NHC today has more than 8,000 patients enrolled on ART. As a department of St. Francis Hospital Nsambya since 1987, NHC provides dedicated HIV care and treatment services to many patients with stories like Rose’s.
For her part, Rose is happy to share these memories and pass on her story—a story she tells with gratitude as PEPFAR enters its 15th year providing lifesaving drugs to people living with HIV around the world.