Release date
April 24, 2008

New Energy for A New Mom

April 24, 2008, —

By David Snyder

GULU, Uganda—Lilly Rose Piloya wrestles gently with her daughter Priscilla, trying to get her to sit still in a counseling room at St. Mary's Lacor Hospital in Gulu, northern Uganda. Like mothers around the world, Lilly Rose knows she's a poor match for the will of a 4-year-old, but she's not complaining.

Priscilla Piloya

Infected from birth with HIV, 4-year-old Priscilla Piloya is now on antiretroviral medications, as is her mother Lilly Rose, pictured in the background. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Not long ago, Lilly Rose was lucky if she had any energy at all to spare for her child. Fighting HIV, the new mother could barely care for herself, much less her infant daughter, who seemed to continuously fall sick as well. Sadly, Lilly Rose wasn't aware that medications existed that might improve her own health and help prevent the transmission of the virus to her baby.

Promising News

A few months after Priscilla was born, Lilly Rose's brother learned that he too was HIV-positive. He also learned that HIV was no longer a death sentence, with advanced drugs offering new hope.

In 2004, St. Mary's Lacor Hospital began providing antiretroviral medications through AIDSRelief, a consortium of five partners led by Catholic Relief Services and funded by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The doctors in Gulu told Lilly Rose's brother that he was eligible to begin taking the lifesaving drugs due to his rapidly failing immune system. He started the HIV treatment regimen and convinced his sister to go to the hospital as well to see if she would also qualify.

"My brother came and told me to go to Lacor Hospital so they could put me on antiretroviral medications, and I would be better," Lilly Rose recounts. "He brought me here on a bicycle, because he said 'You'd better hurry.' "

Priscilla and Lilly Rose

Priscilla and her mother receive antiretroviral medications through the CRS-led AIDSRelief project at St. Mary's Lacor Hospital in Gulu, Uganda. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Her brother's insistence probably saved the lives of both Lilly Rose and young Priscilla. Both are now also enrolled in the antiretroviral treatment program at St. Mary's Lacor Hospital, one of the 18 AIDSRelief sites across Uganda. As of August 2008, these sites are providing HIV care and treatment for more than 62,420 clients, including more than 20,785 on antiretroviral therapy.

Long Lives Together

Lilly Rose became eligible for the drug therapy in May 2005. The effects were immediate.

"I was too weak to even carry the baby," Lilly Rose remembers. "After three months, I could do everything for myself and for my family."

In April 2006, young Priscilla met the criteria to also begin taking the antiretroviral medications. The impact was equally profound.

"When she started, the child was very sick. After one week, the diarrhea stopped," Lilly Rose says. "Then her appetite came back, and the child started eating well. After two months, she was OK."

Today Lilly Rose and Priscilla come to Lacor Hospital every other month for follow-up visits with the doctor and to pick up their supplies of antiretroviral medications. It is a far cry from the types of visits they used to make to the hospital.

"Priscilla used to be in the ward all the time," Lilly Rose adds. "Since she started taking antiretroviral medications, there have been no more admissions."

David Snyder is a photojournalist who has traveled to more than 30 countries with CRS. Most recently, David visited country programs in southern and eastern Africa, including Uganda.