Born in Kampala, Uganda in 1989, I was a great shock to my mother and my family members. Mum had been so excited about having her second child [me] but was taken by surprise when the doctors had told her that I had pneumonia and was HIV positive.
I was disclosed to at the age of 12 and it completely threw me off. I instantly believed that that was it for me; I was going to die! I had no real knowledge about HIV (I mean, it’s never really taught in schools is it?) and thought I was extremely ill and had no chance in living (it seems silly now, looking back on it). My doctors explained it to me over and over again, however, I chose to block out all of the positive facts they were telling me and was stuck in ‘’doom’’ mode. I took this as a learning curb, and decided to research more, gain knowledge and figure out what this ‘thing’ is.
Over the years I was asked if I wanted to join support groups with other kids my age going through the same things I may be going through. And every time I was asked, I refused! I wanted to do it on my own; I didn’t want anyone to be let in. I acted like I was strong enough to deal with the whole world and all its problems. I was coping well with my treatment and had no major concerns about my health. So I said ‘’NO’’ Until I was blue in the face. I thought I’d be judged. And to be completely honest… I was scared! The stigma that surrounds HIV can be daunting, unbearable and harsh. Then I was introduced to CHIVA (Children’s HIV Association) where I met the most AMAZING and lifelong friends a person could ask for, I was taught so many different skills, gained new and exciting knowledge on living with HIV and was able to find myself. I finally realised that I am NOT the only one who a puts on a hard exterior and holds things in (due to fear). The stigma I thought I would face by meeting other people quickly turned into love, support and understanding from my peers. I was able to off load, I was able to advise, I was able to share and explore the many wonders of life in the eyes of a HIV positive young person. I went on to holding summer camps and speaking at world-wide conferences for other young people who were in the exact same position as me. Children who were full of fear, doubt and confusion. They looked up to me and wondered where I got my strength, courage and knowledge from? It all drew from the help and support of my peers, Doctors and family members. I realised that when I was strong, they stayed strong. And it got me through. I began working for Positively UK where I began my peer support work for young people also living with HIV. And I can proudly say that my CD4 count is over 350 and I have remained with an undetectable viral load!
I’d be lying if I said I don’t have my off days, sad hours and scary moments. However I have learnt to embrace my status, and make a difference in the lives of young people like myself who may have a few more off days, sad hours and scary moments than I do.