Tuesday November 20 2012

A child’s struggle to fight HIV on his own

By As told to Johnson Mayamba

I am Phillip*, 17 years old, and the only surviving child out of my biological parents’ six children. I stay at Upper Nabuti Village, Mukono Central Division in Mukono District at MrJames Francis Nyonyintono home. He and his wife are my foster parents. I have been with them for about a month.

My mother passed on when I was very young. She succumbed to HIV/Aids after my siblings had died of the same disease.
After the death of my mother, I was left with my father. We stayed together until I was in primary three when he decided to marry another wife. About a month later, my step mother started mistreating me and even convinced my father to throw me out of the home. My father slowly started changing his attitude towards me. He started by denying me some necessities and eventually stopped paying my school fees.

Life became so hard that I decided to leave my father’s place and go to my paternal grandmothers. While there, life was not easy either. Because of my grandmother’s deteriorating health, I did not receive the care that i needed. I started falling sick very often. One day, I fell so sick that I felt like I was dying the next minute.

When I was taken to the hospital, the doctors carried out different tests on me including HIV. It is at this point that they discovered I was HIV positive. I was immediately put on treatment. Few years down the road, my grandmother could no longer support both me and herself and yet my father never thought of giving a hand. I desperately needed support but that was not possible.

After this, I thought it wise to start working for myself for a better life. This is when I asked my grandmother to give me a piece of land which I would use to develop myself. Despite the condition I was in, I still kept my dreams of becoming the best doctor in Uganda alive.

My grandmother gave me the land when I was 12. That is where I built my small house which I first roofed with grass. All I wanted was to have where I could stay alone so that I struggle as a man. I knew that if I didn’t plan for myself, no one would do that for me. My grandmother was becoming weaker each day that passed by. I knew she would not be with me for long. The earlier I started preparing for myself, the better my future would be.

I started looking for any possible job I could lay my hands on.
However, all the jobs I tried never brought me the money that I needed. I then resorted to making bricks which would give me enough money to support myself. When they were ready, I used some for my house and sold the rest. From that money, I bought iron sheets which I used to roof my leaking house.

With continuous struggle, I was able to buy myself a bicycle too. This was to help me get to the clinic for treatment easily. I had become tired of moving a long distance to get my tablets. I realised I could miss the treatment because of that.

I then combined making bricks and fetching water for people at Katete B village in Buikwe District where I was staying then. This was in a bid to get more money which could support me and take me back to school.

All this time, my father did not help. However, the school needed more. I decided to leave studies and concentrate on my health.

It was at this point that one of the journalists who had come to my village to get a story saw me. He observed me for a while and got concerned because of my unhealthy appearance. He left and came back a few days later to interview me. When it was televised, Mr Nyonyintono saw me and thought of giving a hand.

He came all the way to our village looking for me and asked if I could go with him and I accepted. He later went with me to seek my father’s permission which he granted. A village meeting was called and I was handed over to my new father. That is how I came into contact with Mr Nyonyintono.

He brought me into his family and made me his own child. His family accepted me. Ever since then, my life has improved. When I was still in the village, I was very worried about my future as a positive person. As I speak, that rarely crosses my mind because I am better than I was in the village.

It is not that he has a lot of money to spend on me, but he just has a helping heart. He is a man with a lot of responsibilities. He has his own children to care of but took me on as his own. I am very grateful for that. He wants my health to fully get better before he can look for something I can do for myself because at the moment, I do nothing.
I am ready and willing to go back to school if given the chance.

Previously, I was on treatment but in a bad state. Now, I take my tablets with no worry because all I need is given to me. I feel loved and cared for by my foster parents and there is no way I can pay them back. Much as I am still HIV positive, my condition has improved.

*Names have been changed to hide his identity

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