In Christine Latim’s thatched hut in rural Uganda the portrait of her late husband hangs in pride of place on the wall. The 45-year-old grandmother says she thinks her husband died of an HIV-related infection. She is living with HIV and has been on antiretroviral treatment since 2005 – the year before she was widowed.
Smartly dressed in a white and black coloured long dress Christine says that one of the complications for women living with HIV can be cervical cancer. She says that many of her friends have died of cervical cancer and that she didn’t want to experience the same.
“I heard on the radio that for people living positively it was a serious risk for us to get cervical cancer. During the announcements they mentioned some of the signs of cervical cancer like bad smell and so many signs.
“I was having signs of discharge and very bad smell,” she said.
Statistics from UNAIDS show that women living with HIV are at four to five times greater risk of developing cervical cancer. This risk is linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common infection among sexually active men and women that is difficult for women with compromised immune systems (such as women living with HIV) to clear.
Christine wanted to be screened for cervical cancer but getting a screening in rural Uganda wasn’t easy because money was tight and there were few gynaecologists available.
She tried at a few different clinics but always left without getting the test she needed. That was before she came across one of International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Member Associations, Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU).
“Early in 2013, I heard over the radio about the services being offered by RHU. I went to their service centre and I was examined for cervical cancer and I tested positive. I got services from that centre. Last August, when I went for my control, they found that I’m free of cervical cancer” said Christine.
Today Christine is visited by two people at her thatched hut home four kilometres away from RHU’s clinic in Gulu. It is part of the routine follow-up for patients.
“Gulu Clinic has changed my life completely because of the way they handle their clients. And we got the service at a lower cost than at other health centres.
“If I had any capacity to talk to government or any non-governmental body, I would say they should support RHU Uganda for their good service to youth, women and those of us that are positive living” she said.
Christine’s wish is that Gulu Clinic scales up more services targeting the youth in her community.
“In our country if the youth is healthy many of our youth have experienced a long period of conflict so they need more sensitization especially for their health.” she added.