In-depth: Love in the time of HIV/AIDS

UGANDA: Josephine Nakalema, Uganda: "I would rather make a life with an HIV-positive guy"

"I knew how HIV was transmitted and I had never had sex so I was certain the result would be negative"
Masaka, 14 March 2008 (PlusNews) - Josephine Nakalema*, 22, was born HIV-positive but only realised that she had the disease when she was a teenager. Now a trained HIV/AIDS counsellor, she told IRIN/PlusNews how the late diagnosis affected her family and her love life.

"As a child I used to fall ill so frequently that the kids at school nicknamed me 'mussujja', which means fever in Luganda [one of the languages spoken in Uganda]. My mother died when I was very young so my dad looked after me. Every time I fell ill he worried so much, and I never knew why he took my episodes of sickness so seriously; I always told him not to worry, I’d be ok.

"When I was 17, I fell severely ill, I nearly died. The doctors advised that I have an HIV test. I was not afraid, I knew how HIV was transmitted and I had never had sex so I was certain the result would be negative. My dad seemed extra worried though, and I discovered why when the results came back positive.

"He explained to me that my mother had died from HIV and although he had never confirmed it, he had always suspected that I, too, was infected. For the first time in my life, I saw a man cry.

"I was scared about my own health and depressed about what having HIV would mean for the rest of my life, but I was more concerned about my dad. Once doctors confirmed that I had HIV, he seemed to fall apart - wracked with guilt, he was so stressed about my future that he went into a deep depression. He got very ill, which I believe was partly brought on by the stress.

"Just a year after my diagnosis, my father passed away. He had made arrangements for friends to care for me and pay my school fees, so money is not my problem. But I miss him so much - he had been my mother, my father and my best friend all in one.

"At the time I was diagnosed with HIV, I had been dating a guy from our neighbourhood. He was so sweet and so supportive throughout my illness and my dad’s as well. He vowed never to leave me, despite my HIV status.

"But as the years went by, I thought hard about this relationship. He wanted to take it further, and said we could use condoms; he wanted to marry me. But I couldn’t do it. What if he got infected? I could not take the risk of seeing him go through the pain I have gone through, I couldn’t bear it.

"So I told him we had to break up. He wouldn’t agree but I have now cut off all communication - it is really painful but I feel I have no choice.

"That doesn’t mean I don’t want a relationship. I would just rather make my life with an HIV-positive guy. I feel I need a baby and a husband to be fulfilled."

*Not her real name

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