My name is Jonah and I live in Uganda with my two children. After I was diagnosed with HIV, I faced many challenges. It isn’t always easy to get access to treatment. I got HIV when I was only 15 years old and still in school. For a long time I didn’t know that I was living with the virus. I didn’t feel any pain, continued to go to school, and later got married. I gave birth to two children without testing and knowing my HIV status. But after some years I started to develop fever, skin rash and reddening of my lips. At that time I had already divorced my husband.
Now, I earn a living doing sex work. My fellow sex workers pointed at my lips and said that the colour had changed. This is why I decided to go to Mulago Hospital in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, together with my friend Chrusumu. I had an HIV test and unfortunately I was tested HIV positive. The doctor asked me which hospital was comfortable for me to get the medication and because I didn’t know what hospital to select, he chose one for me. The doctor directed me to TASO Mulago. Some wounds had started to develop in my private parts and my life was in jeopardy, so I went there. It was both sad and amazing to go for treatment. In the clinic, I was tested again and counselled. My CD 4 count was 11 and the doctor decided to give me medication. But unluckily the counsellor asked me who was supposed to sign and referee for my medication, and I had no one. So I couldn’t start the treatment even though I was in a really terrible condition.
I got HIV when I was only 15 years old and still in school
At a certain moment, outreach workers of the AIDS Information Centre talked to me and I told them about my difficult situation. They directed me to Namirembe Hospital and I went there. Here the doctor was easy with me, because I explained to him what had happened in the other hospital. The people gave me the necessary HIV medicines and they saved my life. However, later Namirembe Hospital started to charge some money for the CD4 count test, and this system of paying for the service became a burden to me. At some point when I was at my worksite, outreach workers of WONETHA came to me and listened to my story. Then they gave me information about hospitals where I could access free service. Now, I always go there. Looking back, I see that I’ve encountered many barriers, but I’m lucky that finally I got access to treatment and support.