Tuesday November 27 2012

Losing six family members to HIV/AIDS

Losing six family members to HIV/AIDS

Pastor Wilson Bugembe. Photo by Edgar R. Batte. 

I am the second born in a family of six boys. We were all born by HIV positive parents, Mr and Mrs Drake and Betty Kilabira in Masaka District. Four of my brothers died, so, it is only me and my second last brother that are still alive.

Our parents and some of my brothers died in the earlier 90s. Our first born was the first to die. By the time he died I was still a very little boy so I know nothing much about him. He was then followed by the fourth born.

Among my parents, mum was the first to die in 1993 and since I was just a little boy, I only remember a few things about her last moments. She was very ill and because she was in no position to take care of us, they had to send us off to our grandparents’ home.

While there, we never heard news of her until her last days when she sent for us. However, when we entered the room where she was sleeping, she asked us to get out of her sight immediately. We later learnt she did this because she could not believe that she was leaving us at such a tender age.

After her death, we were left with our father who was still looking healthy; he kept moving back and forth to The Aids Support Organisation (Taso) Masaka for medication. However, it took him a while to start going for Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) because at first, he thought that his condition was as a result of witchcraft but after our mother died, he went for a test and tested positive.

However, one year after our mother’s death, our last born who was one year then, died from the virus and was shortly followed by our father. After dad died, life was never the same. We started living with our grandfather but because he was mistreating us, we moved on to stay with our grandmother, still in Masaka.

By then, my other brother, Dennis Ddumba had started falling sick. At some point, he would be fine and after a few weeks, he would get very ill again. I think my grandmother suspected that he had HIV. She took him for tests and he tested positive. I, on the other hand, was healthy and I am not sure if they took me for testing though I suspect that during one of the visits to the hospital they checked me.

Meanwhile, after testing positive, Dennis was put on ARVs but since then, his life kept on deteriorating, I think it was because of the poor feeding since our grandmother did not have enough money to buy nutritious food for him. He later died at the age of 13 in 1998.

After his death, it was only me and our second last born, Brian plus our grandmother. Since then, life was never the same again. Grandmother had already started aging; she could not go out and look for food. We could barely have anything for ourselves, not education, good feeding or good health. When grandmother died, I moved on to living on the streets but life on the street was terrible. I would go for days without food. I had no clothes and life was miserable in general until I found a good Samaritan who took me up, and put me back in school.

By then, I had given my life to Christ and I was strong knowing that God had good plans for me. He really proved so because He turned my life around. My experience changed my life and I know people no longer get as sick as my mother and Dennis did because there is spiritual and physical hope. There is a lot of medication.

Therefore, if you lose hope because you have tested positive, you might end up missing on the possibilities of a cure as technology nowadays has advanced and there are chances that soon, there will be a cure for HIV. Therefore, I advise people not to lose hope because I believe God can heal them according to Jeremiah 32:27.

As told to Sarah Tumwebaze
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