IAS - A Day in the Life: Fighting Pediatric AIDS in Uganda
To build momentum toward the AIDS 2012 conference next year in Washington, D.C., the International AIDS Society (IAS) is collecting stories from all of its members to showcase a “day in the life” of those fighting the AIDS pandemic around the world.
The Foundation’s own Dr. Edward Bitarakwate
– our Country Director for Uganda
– was among the first IAS members to be profiled
Read below for his first-person testimonial about his work in Uganda, and what gives him hope that we can eliminate pediatric HIV and AIDS.
A Day in the Life of Dr. Edward Bitarakwate:
Dr. Edward Bitarakwate, Country Director
for Uganda. (Photo: EGPAF/Doug DeMark)
As country director for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s Uganda program, I approach every day with a single mission: to eliminate pediatric AIDS. It’s a daunting challenge, but one that I share with friends, colleagues, and a global community committed to reaching all individuals affected by HIV and AIDS.
Worldwide more than 1,000 children are infected with HIV every day, and only 53 percent of pregnant women globally have access to the services that can stop these infections. In Uganda alone, of the 1.2 million people who are living with HIV, 150,000, or nearly 13 percent of all those infected, are children under the age of 15.
Every day I go to work to fight for those children and families. As country director, I manage the day-to-day operations and program strategy for the Foundation’s services in Uganda. The Foundation, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C. but operates in 14 countries across Africa, as well as India, works to prevent pediatric HIV infections and to eliminate pediatric AIDS through innovative research, advocacy, and HIV prevention, care, and treatment programs.
Using the Foundation’s comprehensive approach to fighting pediatric AIDS, it is my job to make sure that the children, women, and families in the communities we serve receive the services they need to stay healthy. Based in the southwestern region of Uganda, my team and I operate nearly 200 program sites that offer high-quality HIV and tuberculosis services to families affected by both diseases.
It’s impossible for me to chronicle a typical day in my life, since each one is so different. One day I am working with a colleague to educate an HIV-positive expectant mother about the appropriate steps to prevent the transmission of HIV to her unborn child, or helping a couple receive the medicine they need to stay healthy. Another day, I am facilitating our community counselors as they run a psychosocial support group for children living with HIV. On another day I am providing strategic technical advice to the National AIDS Control Program at the Uganda Ministry of Health.
Truth be told, much of my time is spent managing the administrative side of our work in Uganda. But the days where I am able to meet with the women, children, and families supported by our programs are what motivate me to continue my work. To see the joy on a mother’s face when she has learned that her baby can be born HIV free, or to witness a young, HIV-positive child begin treatment with us and watch him or her regain their health and confidence – these are the things that drive me and so many of my colleagues to continue our lifesaving work.
Since the Foundation began to provide HIV services in Uganda in 2000, more than 2 million women have received the services they need to prevent the transmission of HIV to their children. We’ve also tested more than 1.6 million pregnant women for HIV, and have enrolled more than 295,000 individuals, including more than 22,000 children, into HIV care and support programs.
While we still have much to do until we reach every woman, child, and family in Uganda -- and around the world -- these numbers give me hope that one day we will eliminate pediatric AIDS. Until then, I continue my work every day with passion and purpose to help and bring hope to those that need it.
Dr. Edward Bitarakwate is the country director for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s office in Uganda. Prior to joining the Foundation, Dr. Bitarakwate worked in various capacities with the Uganda Ministry of Health, participating in the national scale-up of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment services.