Ten-year-old Maggie's smile and laughter are infectious. She lives just outside of Kampala, Uganda, with her mother and three siblings.
Maggie’s father left the family when her mother, Rebecca, was pregnant with Maggie. After her husband left, Rebecca discovered she was HIV-positive while attending the antenatal clinic at Mulago Hospital. Rebecca and her baby both took medication to help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV; unfortunately, Maggie still contracted HIV from her mother.
At age six, Maggie began falling sick with respiratory infections, and she started taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) provided by Makerere University/Johns Hopkins University (MUJHU). Rebecca was also very sick at that time and was having trouble taking care of her children. Salvation came when Rebecca was able to access free ARVs through MUJHU. Rebecca and Maggie’s health improved dramatically, and Rebecca soon resumed working to support her family.
Maggie’s sister, 16-year-old Irene, began falling sick regularly, and Rebecca had the whole family tested for HIV. Irene was positive, but happily, Maggie’s two older brothers were both negative. Irene started taking medications and is now healthy.
When Rebecca can afford money for transportation, Maggie and Irene attend a support group for HIV-positive children. Maggie has learned about the importance of healthy living, including taking her ARVs regularly. In fact, Maggie faithfully reminds her mother and sister to take their medicines.
While Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu was in Uganda several years ago, Maggie presented the senator with flowers at a ceremony held in a new building at Mulago Hospital, sponsored by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. The Foundation now pays Maggie’s school fees. Maggie enjoys science class and playing jump rope, and she wants to be a primary school teacher when she grows up.
Rebecca smiles when she talks about the future of her family. She and her children are healthy. Maggie is doing well in school. Despite numerous challenges that Rebecca and her family have had to face, they are strong and hopeful. Maggie’s future is bright thanks to the support she receives from her family, MUJHU, and the Foundation. Mark her words, she will become a teacher.
Many people contributed to the writing of Maggie’s story. Special acknowledgement goes to Foundation interns Elena Lebetkin and Catherine Nanyunja, and to Joy Angulo, Rita Larok, Edward Bitarakwate, and Esther N. Sempiira of the Foundation Program team. Driver Richard Lwamaza was instrumental in transporting the staff to and from Maggie’s home.
The Foundation would also like to recognize the staff from MUJHU, and, most importantly, Maggie and her family.