Immaculate with her HIV-negative baby
My name is Immaculate, I am 24 years old and a mother of one. I am a resident of Namuwongo, and I have lived here for the past three years. My journey to staying in a slum area has been riddled with a lot of hardships. At 20 years of age, I had a child with my partner then, and I felt happy and fulfilled, little did I know that this was temporary. By then, I lived with my partner in Kanungu (about 430 kilometres from the capital, Kampala) and we led very simple lives. Shortly after my first son was born, he began to terribly fall ill from time to time. I became terrified at this point and honestly, I had run out of options. To make matters worse, our finances had really become undependable, we lived on less than a dollar a day.
One day, my partner suggested that we move to the city where opportunities seemed better than our current situation. Contrary to our anticipation, life was even harder than it was back in the village – at least we had food from the garden back home. In the city, we occasionally went to bed with empty bellies. And all this while, our son’s health was just getting worse.
Within the Namuwongo area, I heard about the “Know-Your-Child’s-Status” campaign from a community health worker who was carrying out health education and follow-up in the community. I was curious and desperate so when she advised me to take my child to Alive Medical Services (AMS), I did not hesitate. Upon my arrival and following tests carried out, my son was confirmed HIV positive. This was impossible! I insisted on the health workers running another test and that is when a counsellor urged me to get tested as well. I must admit, I was mortified! I couldn’t imagine or handle the result, so I hesitated and did not take the test that day – I walked back home.
I was in denial about my son’s status so I did not discuss it with my husband in the hope that the health workers were wrong and that another test would prove them otherwise. A few days after my visit to AMS, I received a follow-up call and a counsellor requested me to come back in at least to talk to someone. I gathered courage and did just as she suggested. This time around, after a considerate amount of time with the counsellor, I decided to get tested as well. When the result turned out to be positive, I lost my mind! The world came crashing down on me. On disclosing to my husband, he decided to leave me alone with our son. Sadly, my son succumbed to measles shortly after that and died.
This pushed me into a depression – I wanted to commit suicide, I wanted to end it all. But through all this, AMS never gave up on me. Not only did they keep calling me to ensure that I came to the clinic for treatment, but they also made sure to physically check on me in the community. Subsequently, I started adhering to my treatment, got some domestic work to do, and later found a partner. I applied the advice from the counsellors regarding disclosure. When I thought it appropriate, I disclosed my status to him, and he was supportive and to ensure that his negative status was maintained.
One year down the road, I conceived twins! I made sure I attended all the recommended antenatal care visits and in May 2019, I gave birth but sadly lost one of the twins during childbirth. This pushed away my partner who decided to leave. I was about to fall back into the same patterns but due to the constant support especially psychosocial support from the counsellors, I was able to accept my situation and concentrate on living for my son and myself.
Today, I am one of the peer mothers that help in providing peer-to-peer support to newly diagnosed HIV positive pregnant women. I share with them my story in case it can help them see past their current situation, adhere to their treatment and take care of their babies when they are born. I still have a long way to go, but for this far that I have come, I am victorious! I am thankful to the partners and donors of AMS that send help to support people like me. I am forever grateful, and I will always try to pay this kindness forward.