It is not easy to be a teenager and being HIV+. There is a lot of sensitization in Uganda about HIV, but there is still such a stigma. We get stories from the children about living with an uncle or auntie (often their parents have already died of AIDS),. They have stories that they only can eat from a special plate or are not allowed to play with their cousins or other children. We try to counsel the relatives, but they still suffer. This picture of Emmanuel (Emma) is taken during one of our Amun weeks, where they meet their pals and we talk a lot about stigma and how to react on it. But it is hard when you are a teenager, you start dating, you don't want your friends to know that you take ARV's and that you are HIV+, out of fear for rejection.
Emma was not a baby, when he came into Amecet. We were asked by his sister, if we could help. He was sick and malnourished. We took him to the doctor, he was tested and found HIV+, this was not a surprise, because his parents died of AIDS. He was started on ARV medication. This is not a cure, but is slows down the growth of the virus. It is really working well if you take the medication twice a day. It is almost making the virus to sleep.... He did well and after some months, we brought him back to his sister, where he was welcome.....
Emma struggled a lot. He felt it is not cool to take those ARV's every day.... He hung out with some wrong friends and dropped out of school. Several times the sister called to Amecet asking for help and then one of our social workers, Simon or Elias, went to talk with Emma and with his sister, trying to mediate. He did came to our Amun weeks and had a lot of fun there, Emma was a nice guy, he just struggled with life. We heard that he was sick, he was admitted in the health centre in his area. We helped with medication, he got blood transfusion, but still he didn't pick up. They transferred him to the hospital in Soroti, we heard that he had meningitis, we went to see him. He was very sick, and last night he passed away..... He can rest now..... no more ARV's and no more medicines.. He will be missed...... Tomorrow we will go to hi village and Emma will be laid to rest..... He was only 21 years old.
It is hard to see the older children struggle with their status of being HIV+, many want to stop taking the ARV's, especially when they go to boarding school. They do not want their friends to know that they are HIV+. When they stop taking those medicines, they get sick and I have seen some of them die, because the virus started to multiply.... We can talk and talk, but when they don't accept their status, things will go very difficult. Pls. pray for the teenagers and even the young adults as they built up their life and have to find a way to live with their HIV status.
Wat verdrietig Els. Hier hebben we dit probleem ook. Ze moeten echt in het reine komen met zichzelf. (Zelf-)stigma kan dodelijk zijn. Gelukkig zie ik ook jongeren met wie het wel heel goed gaat, met een opleiding, een baan en een eigen gezin. Het zou fijn zijn als het stigma de wereld uit was. Sterkte.