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Making HIV Services More Accessible: MUWRP Refurbishes a Health Centre for the People of Koome Island

February 4, 2013
Residents of Koome Island in Uganda have cause to smile after Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP), supported by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, handed over a newly refurbished health centre to the local district authorities.

Residents of Koome Island in Uganda have cause to smile after Makerere University Walter Reed Project (MUWRP), supported by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, handed over a newly refurbished health centre to the local district authorities on January 23, 2013. Koome comprises 16 smaller islands and is located in Lake Victoria.

Before renovations, the Koome Health Centre III—which serves approximately 50,000 residents on the island—had three rooms serving as the outpatient department and a maternity wing. The HIV care area consisted of just one room where all HIV patients were reviewed and counselled, which severely compromised patient confidentiality. The second room, doubled as a treatment and dispensing area for outpatients and the third room served as the laboratory. Residents requiring HIV care and treatment had to access HIV services on the mainland, but with difficult transportation and high lodging costs many patients were lost to follow-up.

MUWRP began renovating Koome health centre in 2012, expanding the facility from three to seven rooms including three antiretroviral therapy rooms, two outpatient department rooms, a pharmacy, a fully-equipped laboratory, running water and solar power. A comfortable shaded waiting area with seating capacity for up to 100 people was also built. The maternity wing was repaired and painted, a space for storage was added and equipment was installed to facilitate Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) services.

Handing over the keys to local district officials, Dr. Francis Kiwewa, MUWRP's Grants and Scientific Affairs Manager, called for proper management and maintenance of the facility and urged residents to seek health services now that the centre is fully operational. Delivering a speech on behalf of People Living with HIV on the islands, a local resident thanked MUWRP for bringing HIV services closer to the people stating that this will lead to increased utilization, adherence and improved survival.

The HIV prevalence on Koome islands currently stands at 14%, two times higher than the national average. Residents living with HIV will no longer need to travel far to access HIV services—all services are now available at the refurbished Health Centre.