Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO)

Today, we spent our morning at The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO) near Mulago Hospital. TASO, which was formed in 1987, aims to help Ugandans live positively with AIDS and provides services such as counseling, medical services, advocacy, and prevention operations for no cost.
Upon arriving to TASO, we split into two groups and toured the facility. We were very impressed by both the structure number of clients being served – an average of 200 per day! 

Clients Waiting to Be Served Outside TASO Mulago 

During the rest of our tour, we visited the counseling center, medical wing, and pharmacy. We finally ended up at the Children’s Care Centre, where HIV+ and HIV- children wait while their parents are treated. To see these kids interact was incredible  - as one staff member pointed out, we could not tell at first glance which kids had HIV and which did not. This just goes to show that stigma with HIV/AIDS has changed drastically over the past 30 years!
Inside the Children's Care Centre

For many of us, the highlight of our visit to TASO was interacting with the singing/dance troupe. These individuals are all HIV+ and receive services from TASO. Their group performs in villages across Uganda to provide education about HIV. The money the group earns from performing goes to fulfill their basic needs and to support TASO.
Performance Troupe at TASO
The final event of our visit was to hear the testimony of one young woman who has benefitted from TASO’s services. As she described, she became HIV+ after she was raped by a man who had promised to provide her school fees. When she told her employer she was HIV+, she was fired. With TASO’s help, she was able to join the performance group, and has since married a man who is also HIV+. The woman and her husband now have two children together, both of whom do not have HIV! It was amazing to hear how TASO benefits community members.

How do Reach Out Mbuya and The AIDS Support Organisation differ? Is one more effective than the other? What was your favorite part of our visit to TASO?

9 comments:

  1. To add, the Children's Care Centre is also place where children with HIV are treated and where there are extensive measures taken so that those without do not receive the virus. These children are monitored on a weekly basis to make sure the mother, especially if breastfeeding, is taking the antiretroviral drug and to monitor the child's overall health. If malnourished, parents have the option of receiving food for the child for a maximum of three months - a limited time to ensure that they do not become dependent on TASO for food.
    I loved learning about all of the different facilities TASO offers and especially how they have expanded to 11 different locations around Uganda, targeting those communities heavily affected by AIDS. It was an amazing experience and one of my favorite places to visit on this trip so far.

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  2. TASO seemed to focus more on the treatment and preventative measures of HIV with a more medical approach. Reach Out seemed to focus more on what the families do after they are diagnosed and how they can make a living through microfinance groups. I think both give people with HIV a since of community and help to fight the stigma that HIV has. My favorite part of visiting TASO was the singing at the end of our visit and hearing Gertrude's story about her experience with HIV.

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  4. I agree Carly, I thought hearing the testimony of the woman in the performance troupe was extremely moving. I was also really impressed with the work that both TASO and Reach Out are doing to allow HIV+ parents to have HIV- children. And the programs that are helping them keep their children HIV- throughout their lives. In my opinion TASO and Reach Out have very similar missions, although Reach Out's is on a smaller scale. Additionally Reach Out seemed to be branching out from just HIV/AIDS support programs into the economic side with microfinance programs which is an interesting approach. Overall both programs seem to be doing lots of good work in Ugandan communities.

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  5. Personally, I thought the Pharmacy was one of the most interesting parts of TASO. The Pharmacy seemed to be set up in a very efficient way, allowing more patients to be seen, and time for the pharmacist to counsel. One of the major issues discussed at TASO was that people do not adhere to their drug therapy treatment. Their medications are free of charge, so there should be no issue with not taking medication due to lack of income. Another fascinating part was the Child Care Centre. As Carly mentioned, we did not know whether the children had HIV or not. I was unaware that two HIV positive parents can successfully have a HIV negative child. The work TASO does for these families is extremely important for the next generation and follows their vision of a world without HIV/AIDS.

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  6. Awesome Blog Carly, and I agree! The TASO visit was a highlight of this trip for me. I really enjoyed hearing Gertrude's testimony about her journey since she became HIV+. It was really great to learn more about the disease because I realized not only how uneducated I was about the disease but how uneducated everyone really is about it- including the MUBS students. Lack of education about HIV/AIDS is a primary reason why the disease spreads so easily. It is great that groups like TASO and Reach Out are doing so much great work to help all of these people continue on with their lives as normally as possible and try to prevent the spread of this deadly disease to the future generations.

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  7. I was very surprised by the various services that TASO offers for free. These services include, HIV testing, medication, counseling, support groups, child care services, massage therapy, TB testing, cervical cancer screenings and circumcision for men. It was amazing to see the amount of people in the facility while we were there touring. TASO does a great job at offering its services with the limited resources that it has. As we talked to staff at TASO it seemed that being informed on HIV and how it spreads is a big issue that needs to be addressed among the people of Uganda. Visiting TASO also offered me my first encounter (that I know of) with a positive HIV patient. I feel that there is such a stigma about HIV patients and how people will become infected just by being in their presence that we often forget that they are real people just like you and I. At TASO, this stigma is being torn down with the help of the TASO performance group that raises money while allowing people to gain a better understanding of what HIV is and what an infected person looks like.

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  8. I originally was not looking forward to going to TASO because I believed it would be very depressing, but it was the exact opposite, it was very heart warming and incredible. Since Uganda does not really require health education in their school system, AID awareness and protection is not really as common there as it is in America. Although there are organization like Reach Out that helps the Kampala community, there still needs to be organizations like TASO that has a more narrow focus on treatment of this terrible disease. Lastly, I would definitely have to say the dance troop was my favorite part, the lady’s testimony was very inspirational.

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