His wife abandoned him at a health facility and the family dug a grave for him in anticipation of his imminent death after he tested HIV positive 25 years ago, but he is still alive.
Mr Moses Nsubuga, aka, Supercharger and his wife had three children together. His wife had often warned him against his reckless behaviour but he never heeded. In 1994, she confirmed her fears.
Nsubuga asked her to accompany him to Bawman House in Kampala for an HIV test. Her results came out negative. But this was not so for him. Nsubuga had already contracted the virus.
He recalls that while still pondering his next move, his wife excused herself to visit the washrooms. She never returned. It was the last time he saw her and their eight-year marriage ended just like that.
“The mother of my children left me at Bawman House,” Mr Nsubuga, a musician, recounts.
He was not enrolled on antiretroviral treatment until 1998 when he became very ill. But he did not adhere to the prescription and after two years, he developed drug resistance.
Nsubuga became critically ill that his aunts he lived within Entebbe thought his death was imminent. They resolved to take him home in Kitalaganya, 20km after Nakasongola District.
They travelled by bus. On the way, passengers forced them out before reaching their destination as Nsubuga was over vomiting, making everyone uncomfortable.
“I was about to die. My relatives gathered at my aunt’s home in Entebbe. They had laid me on the mat. They started planning. They wondered if I died, who had Shs1.5m to take my body to Kitalaganya? The wise thing is to put me on the bus before he I die,” he narrates.
Stranded at Kakoge, a man driving a pickup offered them a lift to Nakasongola Town, but along the way, he realised Nsubuga was very ill. He offered to take them home in Kitalaganya.
Before reaching home, Nsubuga’s aunts requested the driver to sojourn for a few minutes in Nakasongola town so they could buy cement and backcloth; materials for burial.
“They bought cement, one iron sheet and backcloth in Nakasongola which they would use on my grave. We then continued. They monitored me every day but I never died,” Mr Nsubuga testified before hundreds of The Aids Support Organisation (TASO) clients during an annual general meeting at their offices in Kampala last month.
He was rescued by former Ntenjeru North Member of Parliament Sarah Nyombi, who upon learning that Nsubuga had been taken to the village awaiting death, organised transport and brought him to the Joint Clinical Research Centre in Kampala.
This was his turning point. He has since composed songs such as “Say No to Resistance,” in a campaign aimed at sensitising people to adhere to antiretroviral drugs.
Mr Nsubuga is living positively and hopes when researchers finally make a breakthrough in the long search for an HIV/Aids cure, it will find him alive.
Prof Vinand Nantulya, the former Uganda Aids Commission chairman, says as one of the people who negotiated to bring ARVs in Africa, there is need for people on treatment to take it seriously. He says failure to adhere to the medication is an added burden to the country.
Prof Nantulya adds that previously HIV/Aids was a global threat which attracted many funders but it no longer is and donors have since pulled out.
However, he is optimistic that the One Dollar Initiative he chairs will help curb the scourge.
“At the time we were agitating for the money, it was a global challenge. Every country was affected. Today, it is not. The impact is that some donors have started withdrawing. Uganda had 11 prominent donors. Today, they are five [the President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (PEPFAR), Global Fund, UN Family, Irish Aid and World Bank]. We have to be on the lookout to mobilise domestic resources. We are going to mobilise money from everybody. We shall build up an endowment fund which shall be invested and returns on investment will be available forever,” Prof Nantulya said.
In 2018, TASO identified 1,599 newly diagnosed HIV positive mothers who were initiated on ART.
Dr Jane Mulemwa, one of the TASO founders, told people with HIV last year: “It is very disheartening when some of you don’t adhere to the medication. If you don’t, we will go back to where we have come from.”
In a separate interview, the head of HIV/Aids programme at Ministry of Health, Dr Joshua Musinguzi, told Daily Monitor that government is struggling with drug resistance because people do not follow the prescriptions or taking it for a long time.
“Drug resistance is a problem. There is poor adherence for those not taking the drug as the doctor told them. They are not coming back for treatment and that is one big challenge,” Dr Musinguzi said.
He said drug resistance has grown over time from 15 per cent to now 17 per cent. Dr Musinguzi said the government has accordingly increased its annual budget on ARVs this year from Shs100 billion to Shs160 billion.
According to Ministry of Health statistics, 1, 000 people living with HIV are on third-line treatment and 80, 000 on second-line treatment. There are about 1.4 million people with HIV in Uganda with an estimated 1.2 million on ARVs. These account for 86 per cent of HIV positive people on treatment.
It is estimated that on average, the government spends Shs50,000 per month on individuals living with HIV and are on their first line of treatment while Shs250, 000 is spent on per person on second-line treatment.
The cost increases to Shs800, 000 per person living with HIV who is on third-line treatment.
Apart from men, children and young people who are bogging down government target of achieving the 90 90 90 treatment to end the HIV/Aids pandemic, Dr Musinguzi said they hope to have accomplished the target by December 2020.
“We have changed our target to 95-95-95 HIV/Aids treatment target. We are at 86-86-90. The gap is in men, children and young people. We are doubling our effort in the fight and hope in December next year, we shall be measuring up,” he said.
Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, Uganda Virus Research Institute Director, told Daily Monitor that their research has revealed that 15 per cent of individuals who have been initiated on treatment are already drug-resistant.
The good news is that for those on treatment after one to two years, they have observed good viral suppression between 80-90 per cent although 90per cent of those with unsuppressed viral load has drug resistance.
Dr Kaleeba said WHO gave a threshold that if there is drug resistance of 10 per cent in people initiating treatment, they should change the regimen to the use of dolutegravir, another class of drug, integrase inhibitor.
Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV weakens a person’s ability to fight infections. It is mostly contracted through unprotected sex or needle sharing. Signs and symptoms may include fever, headache, nagging cough, painful and blistering rash, swollen lymph nodes and skin problems; Dry, itchy skin is a common issue for people whose immune systems are damaged from HIV.