The story of HIV is very personal

Angella Nampewo

What you need to know:

  • The story of HIV is personal for most, if not all of us. Since the 80s and 90s, the country has been fighting a stiff battle against the stubborn human immuno deficiency virus that has persisted at least 40 years since the first recorded case in the country. 

The story of HIV is one of loss, struggles, challenges but also miracles.

The story of HIV is personal for most, if not all of us. Since the 80s and 90s, the country has been fighting a stiff battle against the stubborn human immunodeficiency virus that has persisted at least 40 years since the first recorded case in the country. 

For those of us who were around in the early years of the scourge, HIV/Aids was a very scary disease. It decimated entire villages in the southern Uganda district of Rakai, wiped out families and put the fear of God into all who witnessed these things. 

With advancement in treatment alongside measures like prevention of mother to child transmission and awareness campaigns, those nightmarish days are far behind us. 

We have managed to bring the numbers of infection and death down but every single life lost is one too many. 

Somewhere in the world, some child has lost a parent, a parent has lost a child and someone has lost a brother or sister, a best friend...HIV has left a permanent mark on my life that to this day, I hate receiving early morning calls. 

I remember the death announcement of this family member like it was yesterday. The call came at 5am. I was in Jinja. The caller was in Kampala. It was that hour of the morning just before the train went by. 

The morning was still. 
The Muezzin had not yet sounded the call for morning prayers at the nearby mosque. It was almost exactly on the hour when the call came through. I am not sure why I was awake at that time but I remember the moment the phone began flashing. 
When I saw the caller ID, I knew for sure that something was terribly wrong.
 
There was that hesitation for a second because I didn’t want to confirm the worst. I knew we had a patient in Kampala and the person most likely to have been at the patient’s bedside was calling me. 

I must have mentally made the sign of the cross before picking the call but I finally found the courage to take the call that would change a lot of things. 
In another case, it was a bright sunny Sunday morning. I was on my way to church when metres away from the church entrance, I was suddenly taken ill with chills, fever and all. 

It is the only time in my life that I have seriously considered that I was about to perish from illness. 
They told me later that it must have been my intuition and telepathy communicating across the miles that someone close to me was about to depart this world. 
Another unforgettable experience I owe to HIV. 

Pardon me if I seem to be speaking in riddles but the mere retelling of this story opens up old wounds and not just mine but of all those who knew the departed. May their souls rest in peace!
 
These were my thoughts on World Aids Day mid this week but I don’t just think of these things at this time of year. The memories are here to stay forever. 
In the fight against HIV, I have a huge stake. There are children, parents, siblings, friends and in-laws involved.
 
HIV/Aids has altered families and lives forever. It has changed the course of our lives and changed the way we relate. 
You need to apply some brakes as you go about this rollercoaster called life. For me, the story of HIV is highly personal and goes with me wherever I go. 

Ms Nampewo is a writer, editor and communications consultant     
[email protected]

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