Reducing Stigma of HIV in Uganda
Lady Madinah, as she refers to herself, has been living with HIV for over eight years and she proudly declares her status without fear of discrimination. The 51-year-old woman comes from Bukasa Parish, Wakiso district and was recently acknowledged by the Epicenter Committee for her efforts to reduce the stigmatization of HIV patients.
“I contracted HIV at a critical period in my life because I still had a number of children in primary school and I was deeply worried about their future. At first, I became sick often without realizing the cause. My dependence on traditional herbs didn’t help me until I was too ill and was rushed to the hospital.”
Lady Madinah’s husband passed away two years after she first contracted the disease and she believes his polygamy was the root cause. She explains to the Epicenter Program Officer that she was able to make peace with him for what he did to her and has decided to continue with her life.
Lady Madinah explains that she was advised by her first daughter to stop self-medicating as it was just making her weaker without an actual diagnosis. She took Lady Madinah to the epicenter health unit in 2006, where she was tested for malaria, typhoid and brucellosis, which came out negative. Lady Madinah was counseled by the nurse to do an HIV test, something that took her time to accept because at 44 years of age she had never thought of such a test.
“I was greatly traumatized at the suggestion by the nurse and my worst fear was that what the community was gossiping about would come true.” The nurse continued to counsel Lady Madinah and she later consented to the test. Her results were positive and she was told by the Health Officer that she was going to be put on medication and would improve.
She was further counseled by Deborah Nabukenya, an animator from the epicenter Health Sub-committee, and learned that the epicenter was supporting marginalized women and People Living with AIDS (PLWHAs). At the beginning it was not easy and the animator and Village Health Team members were very supportive. They encouraged Lady Madinah to accept her condition and to improve her health. “I was advised to eat well and to rest because of the medication I was taking.” Lady Madinah said that she did so and, after four weeks, she noticed a dramatic improvement in her health and that has been that way ever since.
It has now been seven years and Lady Madinah has been able to look after her family very well. She is now supporting other marginalized women in her state by telling her story, training on HIV prevention, especially among youth, and encouraging PLWHAs to live positively.
As Madinah concludes her experience sharing, she receives a standing ovation, handshakes and hugs from people in the training