Josephine: Uganda

Josephine at Dance Marathon at UCLA 2012, where she addressed college students about her experiences living with HIV.

Tim Bradbury, The Daily Bruin

My name is Josephine, and I am a young woman living with HIV.

If it weren’t for EGPAF, I wouldn’t be alive today.

When I was 10 years old, I learned that I was living with HIV. I had found a letter that my mother never intended for me to see, confirming that she, my father, my sister and I were all infected with the virus. Our family had been plagued with illness for many years, and before seeing the letter, I had never understood why. My mom was the worst. She suffered from pneumonia many times, and we both had bumps all over our skin.

Learning I was HIV-positive was hard, but I was also relieved to have an answer to our health problems. My mom found out I knew our status, and we began to talk openly about HIV. She told me that she discovered she and my father were HIV-positive when she was pregnant with my little sister.

Beyond health complications resulting from HIV, in the early years of acknowledging our status, my family suffered from painful stigma and discrimination. The hate that we received made me worried about our safety and our future.

And then we met EGPAF. They saved our lives, ensuring our access to the critical HIV services we needed. EGPAF also gave my family hope. My mother and I gained the confidence we needed to help others like us – sharing our story with those we knew, and educating our community about HIV.

Through EGPAF, I met other HIV-positive children my age. Together, we received counseling and support to help us handle some of the unique challenges HIV-positive children face. Today I am a healthy young woman, and although I am living with HIV, I am happy and doing well in school. When I’m not studying, I volunteer as a peer support counselor; helping young people like me understand HIV/AIDS, and teaching our community to be tolerant and compassionate to those who are living with the virus.

After I graduate school I’d like to attend a university and study to become a journalist. I want a career where I can continue to fight for HIV-positive children, and help create a generation free of HIV. It’s because of EGPAF that I can dream so big.

Josephine Nabukenya is a student, AIDS advocate, and EGPAF Ambassador from Kampala, Uganda. She has traveled around the world, including the United States, sharing her story and educating others about HIV/AIDS.

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Blog posts featuring Josephine: