Tag Archives: stigma

Youth at Alive Medical Services: Nadia’s Story

When Nadia was 10 years old, she was hospitalized for an entire month. She had no idea she was HIV positive until months later – and she didn’t realize the weight HIV carried until she returned to primary school.

“My teachers would always say you can’t do this, you can’t do that,” Nadia said. “They acted like I was so fragile. Like I could faint at any moment.”

For months, Nadia felt isolated. The kids at school didn’t understand why the teachers treated her the way that they did, and Nadia couldn’t understand it either. When she took her medication, she felt fine – but for some reason, her teachers thought she was anything but.

Tired of all the special treatment, Nadia stopped taking her medication, hoping that everyone would treat her like a normal person again.

Once Nadia’s mother realized what her daughter was doing, she brought Nadia to Alive Medical Services (AMS) for counselling. Day after day, Nadia sat with the counsellors, and they spoke to her about good adherence and living positively. Soon after, Nadia began engaging with the Victor’s Club, AMS’ youth program for adolescents living with HIV.

“When I got to secondary level, I started to let it go,” Nadia said. “I thought to myself: I have HIV. That can’t be changed. And I can live with that.”

In time, Nadia began singing, dancing, and making friends at Victor’s Club. This past summer, AMS staff trained Nadia to become a youth peer educator, giving her the skills to counsel other youth living with HIV, and refer them to the clinic for treatment.

Now 18, Nadia hopes to attend university next year. Eventually, she hopes to become a counsellor for HIV-positive children herself.

“I want HIV-positive children to know that living a positive life is not that hard,” Nadia said. “You can live beyond other people’s expectations. You can achieve what others can achieve, and more. It’s important not to be afraid.”

Ever since school let out, Nadia has spent her days volunteering at AMS. She helps measure the weight, height, and health status of children at triage, working alongside the nurses and helping whenever she can.

“I want to work with children because they are the future of tomorrow,” Nadia said. “They should know that HIV can’t stop them.”

Participatory Storytelling at Alive Medical Services

Alive Medical Services is launching a new participatory storytelling project to break down stigma and open up conversation around HIV: Positive. Powerful. Alive.

By engaging clients this project, we will provide program participants with a platform to tell their stories from a lens of strength. Through storytelling, video, and photography, clients will show their communities that they aren’t victims – they’re fighters. And they have stories to tell.

We have secured a partnership with a local video company, SkyRock Productions, that has agreed to train our clients on storytelling, video, and photography. However, we still need simple photo or video devices our clients can film their stories with.

That being said, we are looking for partners equally as interested in the power of arts, storytelling, and the end of HIV-related stigma to make this project a reality.

Our clients’ narratives will help reshape the way HIV is viewed in Namuwongo, Kampala, and beyond. Please consider donating to this project at https://goo.gl/8X1syD.

If you are interested in being involved in this project, reach out to Alive Medical Services’ communications department at emiolene@amsuganda.org.

A Single Father’s Story of Love and Loss

Henry and his son, Richard, sit next to each other after Henry’s appointment at Alive Medical Services.

Henry’s wife passed away 25 years ago, but looking at him now, you’d think it happened yesterday. His body stiffens as he talks about her, pausing every so often to extract himself from the memories passing through his head.

“We didn’t know until it was too late,” Henry said. “And after she passed, everything changed.”

Back in 1993, Henry had barely realized what happened until his wife was gone. Henry contracted HIV from another partner and unknowingly passed it along to his wife. After she died, Henry was left to care for four children and his elderly mother, all the while battling HIV himself.

At the time, HIV was severely stigmatized in his community, making it difficult for Henry to openly seek help and treatment.

Henry would walk from health clinic to health clinic attempting to find antiretroviral medication. More often than not, he’d reach the pharmacy counter just to be turned away. It seemed that there were never enough antiretrovirals for everyone suffering, causing Henry’s health – and the wellbeing of his family – to drastically decline.

“I was so depressed during those years,” Henry said. “It was hard to get medication, and it was frustrating to have nowhere to go for help.”

Poor health, guilt and depression began to consume Henry, making it nearly impossible to work, feed his family, and gather the strength to keep on living. When he and his youngest son, Richard, came down with tuberculosis, they could barely afford the medication they needed to stay alive.

Eventually, a friend referred Henry to Alive Medical Services, a small clinic that had just opened up near Henry’s house. He has remained an active client ever since, returning again and again for treatment over the last 10 years.

“Without Alive, I wouldn’t have made it,” Henry said. “I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been, not just because I get free ARVs, but because I get free treatment of opportunistic infections too.”

After his health stabilized, Henry was able to recommit himself to his children, all of whom are HIV negative. Henry worked constantly to earn enough money for school fees. Because of that, his first three children now have families of their own – and his youngest son, Richard, just recently finished his degree. Richard now works as an electrician, and routinely accompanies his father to the clinic for check-ups.

“The counsellors at Alive helped me be strong for my children,” Henry said. “For any single fathers dealing with the same situation, I’d tell them this: push hard for your children.”

Thinking of his past, Henry recognized that often, men avoid HIV clinics. They don’t want to be seen there, he said, but they need to be more open to the idea.

“There’s nothing wrong with getting tested and treated,” Henry said. “It keeps you alive. Today, I’m proud to tell my story and show people how I’ve survived.”