Not many HIV positive people are bold enough to declare their status because of fear of stigma. But that is exactly what 24 year old Eva Nakato, an HIV awareness agent with PINA Uganda does.
Eva spoke to LinkmeUg’s Cuthbert Kigozi about her journey with HIV and why she decided to speak out against the disease.
Eva: As a child, my mother always gave me septrines to swallow but didn’t explain why. It was in my P.6 that she said my twin sister and I had contracted the virus at birth; but our father had no idea.
I was shocked and traumatized for sometime but eventually came to terms with the situation because I couldn’t change it.
Hiding the big secret
Eva: My dad found out when I was in S.3 after I fell so sick that he had to pick me from school. Unfortunately I had forgotten to carry my medication with me and when my cousin brought it home, dad saw it and got so angry.
There was a misunderstanding but he turned out to be negative and life went on.
Dealing with Stigma
Eva: The Stigma in primary wasn’t anywhere close to high school. High school students were curious to know why I always swallowed medicine and when I told a few, the rumour spread like a wild fire.
If I had an argument with something, my status would be used against me and some students shunned me but I would eventually find the courage to pick myself up.
HIV Awareness campaign
Eva: My late mum [died 2013] and I used to a regularly meet a counselor called Asia Mbajja at Joint Research Clinic in Entebbe and she helped me discover the champion in me.
When she opened PINA Uganda, I joined as a volunteer and to-date help raise awareness about HIV among people my age but I am shocked by the growing numbers of HIV in the country.
My mum inspired me a lot but now that she is gone, Asia is my greatest inspiration.
Using music and Drama to fight HIV
Eva: PINA uses music, dance and drama in schools, communities and on social media to boldly share our stories to the world about how we are fighting HIV.
We are currently working on a TV drama series called “Don’t Dare Touch” produced by Daniel kiggundu. He was touched by my story when I shared it at the World Savers Excellence Awards and later told me he needed a character that has gone through stigma for an upcoming movie.
Eva: In the movie I act Linda who was raped and acquired HIV. She experiences stigma and fears to disclose it to her boyfriend despite a friend pushing her to do so. When she does, it doesn’t end well. Linda must then find a way of going on with her life.
Your message to the world
Eva: If you are positive, be open about your status with intending partners; those who truly love you will stay. To those dealing with stigma, it’s not the end of the world so remain focused on your goals.
Eva holds a diploma in art and design from Micheal Angelo College of creative art, Kisubi. She’s currently not in a relationship but has a two year old son who tested HIV negative because she followed the doctor’s advice about her pregnancy and child.
By Cuthbert Kigozi
Online Media for Youth
Email: [email protected]