On Friday 23rd November 2018, Vivian Nabanoba was crowned Miss Y+ in the UNYPA Y+ Pageant at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel. The pageant attracted several young people living with HIV and are living positive and productive lives. She is full Joy and is always smiling, bringing life to all those around her, but behind this life-bringing smile, lies a difficult past that Vivian has experienced to become the young leader that she is today.
Vivian now 24 years of age lived a normal life, raised by her mother who managed to put her through school to attain an education through to higher learning at the University. She also balanced school with her work at her mother’s restaurant. On a clear path to becoming successful in life, Vivian had nothing to worry about.
Vivian dated a young man for a long time and had always asked him to go and get themselves tested for HIV, but all in vain. “If it wasn’t a match, it was always something else for him to not go, I checked every often because we had a clinic in one of the units that my mother and I managed as rental spaces, so their services were always to our disposal,” Vivian recalled. For all those times she tested, she was HIV negative. At the time, she loved this young man but was also not as keen to insist on testing seeing as she had brought it up several times.
“Two months down the road, me and the doctor who occupied one of the spaces had a heated argument about his inability to pay rent and I asked him to leave. Not long after, he spoke to my mum and said that I was HIV positive and I had asked him to keep it a secret between both of us. My mother, infuriated by the accusation came and asked me for my results of the last HIV test. “They were negative,” I responded. She asked me to go elsewhere and take the test again.” Vivian painfully recalls.
To put a rest to all the dust raised, “I went to get myself tested again at another health centre. I found out I was HIV positive on 26th September 2012. It was the darkest day of my life. I did not know what to do, all I knew was that I was going to die a very painful death. All I pictured for my future was death and the things that I didn’t get the opportunity to do. I got on my knees and asked the doctor to check again. When I went home and saw my mum, I burst into tears and she instantly knew the results were not good.”
After a while, Vivian decided to disclose to her boyfriend whose reaction was the strangest, to say the least. “He promised to love her and stay with her even with the new developments. At that point in time, it was the most romantic thing he had ever said to me, so I didn’t think much of it. I stayed with him another 2 months whilst still begging him to go get tested but all in vain.” Vivian recalls. Then came the challenges of not just the relationship but of Vivian’s new HIV status.
The experience of stigma became a reality for Vivian when she found out that her then-boyfriend had let everyone at the University know of her HIV status. “Friends eluded me, no one spoke to me. I picked up some habits, I started to drink alcohol, going to bars all night, smoking cigarettes and subsequently stopped going to school but always lied to my mum that I was going.”
Fast forward, she met another young man who really liked her, after one thing leading to the other, she gathered the courage to disclose to him about her HIV status. He agreed to get tested and recommended Alive Medical Services (AMS). “That was my introduction to AMS.
The counselors were nice and respectful and treated us with respect. I received an appointment, but I did not honour it but due to the good experience I had, I came back. I met a youth and children counselor named Lorna Birungi who introduced me to the Victors’ Club where I met young people who had the very same struggles that I had. They each had their own story and were happily living with them. I felt at home among them, and that was when I was initiated on antiretroviral treatment.” Vivian recalls.
Since then, Vivian went back to school to complete her degree, had her daughter in 2015 who is HIV negative due to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (EMTCT) and early infant diagnosis (EID) programmes at AMS.
When asked about what motivated her to join the young people living with HIV pageant, Vivian said “I became interested in the Y+ Pageant after I attended the Y+ summit. Numerous people encouraged me to participate, and then my drive to show people that we are not vulnerable urged me along. I am happy I won. As I continue along, I want to continue to empower young people living with HIV even those in the hard to reach areas by partnering with different organizations to end stigma and remind them that they are not vulnerable, instead they are strong and capable just like anyone else.
To Vivian, AMS has been home to her and will forever be her home and she says “I have developed a whole new meaning to life. I will forever be grateful to AMS.”
Mbarara News Comment
Mbarara News is proud to associate with all organisations and individuals dedicated to sensitise communities on HIV/AIDS, fight stigma, help HIV positive people live a healthy, active and productive lives. We believe that everyone has a role to play in the campaign to reduce and later eliminate new HIV cases and in achieving the 90-90-90 target.
Story source: Alive Medical services
Additional editing and comment by Cliff Abenaitwe