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12 years now and we are still alive thanks to Bono.

The year was 2002 when Bono visited TASO Mulago unit. He was greatly impressed by the work being done by TASO staff but especially by the Peer Support Group, of 25 HIV positive clients, which was using music, dance and drama to sensitize their communities. Bono was moved by the fact that while the group members had courageously given a human face to HIV in Uganda, they were weak and needed more help. He asked what he could do to help TASO. 

Thinking that they had very little time left to live, members of the group thought that it would be better for them to receive financial support so that they could each buy a piece of land and possibly build houses for their respective families. The then Executive Director - Dr. Alex Coutinho -suggested that rather than receive financial aid, Bono could donate life prolonging drugs to the group. This was because TASO had not yet rolled out the ART programme within its units. This would enable the members to live long enough to build their dream houses, support their families and watch their children grow.

Bono pledged to support the group members with ARVs for three years. On 20th December 2002, the first consignment was received. All 25 members were screened but only 9 were eligible to receive ARVs. While two of the members have since passed on, these are profiles of six of the 9 recipients.

Prossy Nalubowa
In 2002 she weighed only 53kg and had a CD4 count of 101. Her children were young and she had no hpe of seeing them grow up. Today she weighs 82kg and has a CD count of 978. She is healthy and strong. All her children have gone to school and she has built herself a house. She is currently the female Client Council Representative in TASO Mulago.

Charles L. Makanga
He was one of the very first to receive the drugs. He weighed only 45 kg, had a CD4 count of 94 and a viral load of 7,000,000 copies. He was standing and walking out of sheer willpower and not body strength. Today he weighs 63kg, a CD4 count of 587 and a viral load of 40 copies. He has been able to send his children to school infact one is now a University graduate. Charles was able to go back to school as well to study broadcasting and journalism. He now presents on one of the local FM radio stations on HIV related programmes.

Charles Kasumba
He has never fallen critically ill since he started on ARVs. All he gets is a simple cold during the cold days. Charles has one child who unfortunately was born HIV positive but is already on ART and doing very well. Charles' CD4 count rose from 198 to 842. After he left the Peer Support / Drama Group, he became a staff member of TASO Mulago and he has worked here for the last 10 years.

Jacinta B. Bakanansa

Jacinta's viral load results say that the virus is now undetectable in her blood although she has to continue taking ARVs to stay that way. Her CD4 count rose from 146 - 957 after she received her first consignment of the "Bono ARVs". She now has children who are HIV negative and are in school. She makes jewellery for sale, has trained in hairdressing, grows ginger for sale, has a cow which gives her and her family milk and has also been able to build herself a house.

Betty Nanyanzi
She smiles while she talks about how she is so grateful that she received ARVs at the time when she did. She had lost hope and her family was preparing for her death. Her CD4 count in 2002 was only 24 but today it is 888. She left the Drama Group after getting a certificate in tailoring and is now self employed. Betty has children who are both HIV negative in fact one of them is at University now. She also has a viral load that is undetectable in her blood.

Hasifa Nanfuka
She started ARVs with a CD4 count of 52. Today it has risen to 596. She has a daughter who is HIV negative. Hasifa returned to school and  got herself a Certificate in handcrafts and hairdressing. While she is still a member of the Drama Group, she is able to increase her income by selling her products.

These are just a few of the many testimonies of clients in TASO. They are most grateful to Bono for his selfless action in giving them their first consignment of ARVs. They have each fought on, like he encouraged them to do, and have made something more of their lives. They have also continued to champion the cause for an HIV free generation that is informed and aware of the dangers of contracting HIV.


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