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The Challenge

Since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic in the early 1980s, 78 million people have contracted HIV and over 38 million individuals have died of AIDS-related deaths. Uganda was one of the hardest hit countries by the epidemic in the 1980s.

Today, there are over 170,000 children living with HIV in Uganda. Many of these children have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. 

 

Understanding HIV

 

Are you a visual learner? Below are some helpful videos on HIV/AIDs that we find insightful

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HIV & AIDS

What is HIV?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the cells of the body's immune system. Unlike some other viruses, the human body can't get rid of HIV completely, so those who have HIV, have it for life. 

THEN, WHAT IS AIDS?

There are 3 stages of HIV. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, known as AIDS, is the third and final stage of HIV.If a person with HIV begins receiving treatment early on, they might never advance to having AIDS. 

HOW DOES IT SPREAD?

HOW DOES SOMEONE CONTRACT HIV?

HIV is spread through direct contact with certain bodily fluids, including sex, sharing a needle, or during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding

HIV is not transmitted through casual contact such as shaking hands, sharing toilets, sharing dishes/drinking glasses, water, or mosquitos

IS THERE A CURE?

TREATMENT

Unfortunately there is no official “cure” for HIV, but there is treatment! HIV treatment, known as ART (antiretroviral treatment), is free in Uganda thanks to the PEPFAR Fund passed under the George W. Bush's presidency in 2003.

People living with HIV take an assortment of medication depending on the strain and strength of the HIV virus in their body. Medications, called ARVs  (antiretroviral drugs), are taken twice a day. 

Since the immune system is compromised for a person with HIV, they are often vulnerable to cancer, tuberculosis, and other disease and have to be on and off on treatment for these as well.  

In 2015, Cherish Health Centre opened and is now a certified location to administer ARVs. Children in Cherish's care, as well as the public, can receive ART at Cherish Health Centre, who is partnered with Uganda's MildMay Hospital. 

Treatment is a must! Through medical care and love we have seen lives of children transformed. Cherish Health Center does HIV testing, treatment, care, and counseling.

Through counseling and discipleship, we remind each child and teen that they are "fearfully and wonderfully made” by a Creator who loves them dearly. (Psalm 139:14)

The Cherish Response

There is a huge opportunity to change the story of HIV through education. Beyond meeting a patient’s physical needs, we seek to also help these children grow emotionally and spiritually. We believe that a Christian schooling gives us the platform to do so. As a result of stigma and discrimination, children living with HIV are often deprived of an opportunity to go to school. Therefore, students with HIV who apply to our schools are automatically accepted, and the remaining spots are left open to children from the community who would likely not attend school if we didn't intervene. 

The average age in Uganda is 15, so our schools make a huge impact on speaking to the rising population of Uganda, to change the story of HIV for the future. Through Cherish schools, we also get the opportunity to educate and mentor the student’s family on HIV care.

 
 

Common Myths & Misconceptions

 

“Be careful, It’s EASy to get HIV from someone with HIV”

There are common misconceptions about how someone contracts HIV.

HIV is NOT spread through: kissing, hugging, bathing/swimming, sweat, sharing food, drinks, or utensils, toilet seats, or insect bites.

HIV is spread through: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluids, rectal fluid, breast milk.

HIV is commonly spread through sharing needles, sexual intercourse, during birth, or by breastfeeding.

However, the use of HIV medicines and other strategies can help lower the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to 1% or less.


“The Cure for HIV is…”

Out of the 78+ million people who have had HIV, there have been 2 unique cases of people being cured through clinical studies. While this is exciting, their cases are still an anomaly and there are many myths around HIV cures and prevention.

You canNOT prevent or cure HIV by: washing after sex, using the pulling out method, using the contraceptive pill, spells and herbal medicine, or by having sex with a virgin. While some of those myths might seem obvious to you, there are many problematic myths that have spread over the years.


“It’s easy to tell if someone has HIV”

Due to the media’s portrayal of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, many people think that people with HIV/AIDS look sick. While someone with HIV who is NOT receiving treatment can look sick, this is not always the case.

You can’t tell by looking at someone whether they have HIV or not. Many people don't show signs of any symptoms. For people living with HIV who are on effective treatment, they are just as likely to be as healthy as everyone else.