ChildFund International’s commemoration of World AIDS Day continues with an interview with Ruth Nateleela, who is living with HIV/AIDS in Kireka, a township in south-central Uganda. She is receiving care and support from ChildFund and its program partners. Sheila Birungi, ChildFund Uganda project affiliate, conducted the interview.
Are you able to work, and, if so, what type of work do you do?
Yes, but right now I am not working since I have just given birth. However, before I was doing petty trade, selling charcoal and other consumables like tomatoes and onions.
Do you have children? How does this affect your outlook on the future?
I have four children. I know the future of myself and the children is bright because my child who is HIV-positive is taking ARVs (anti-retrovirals), and they told me that she can live as long as the drugs are taken well. I am also taking my drugs well. For the youngest child of three months, I was given PMTCT (prevention of mother to child transmission) capsules, and the doctors told me that that she will be fine.
How long have you lived with this disease?
I knew three years ago.
What education have you received?
I was first told that if you test your blood you will be able to know your status. After that, I went to ChildFund offices at the Kireka project and tested the first time. They told me that I was HIV positive and I did not believe, but I went to Mildmay Centre and they told me the same thing.
When I went, they told us on how to eat and about using condoms. They also told me to tell the doctors that I am pregnant since they have to take care of the baby such that she does not contract the disease.
How have ChildFund programs helped you?
ChildFund’s Kireka project is the one that gave me light on everything. I would be even dead by now if it was not for the project. They gave me access to the blood test. They also [referred] me to Mildmay, and now they are the ones who come to remind me on how to take my drugs. They have been giving food to my child for a long time — the one who is HIV-positive — and taking her to their centre to play. Mrs. Sseruwaji Nuru [home-based volunteer] is very instrumental to me. I ask God to bless her because she made me regain my life and I must say thank you to ChildFund.
As a person living with HIV/AIDS do you feel accepted? And do you feel safe?
Yes I am. Why are you shaking my hands? It’s because you do not discriminate against me, and I am not any differently treated in the community. I am so happy about life generally, and I don’t have any problem.
How is this disease affecting the community in which you live?
People are very sick, but the good thing is that now no one can laugh at any one with HIV. Actually, these days, people share a lot about the experiences, and they even direct each other to the service centres.
Do you thing HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is a critical part of human rights?
Yes, because we are all the same people in front of God. So if I have HIV, it does not mean that because you do not that there is a difference in terms of human rights.
What are your goals for the future? What are your dreams?
To have good family and to be able to bring up all my children and educate them all.
Any details you would like to share with others about HIV/AIDS and the people like you who have it?
I just want to tell them that HIV is real and to always test themselves because that’s the beginning of life. For my friends who have it, they need to care about themselves and this can only be done when you meet all the necessary people, like organizations, and make friends through telling them your status.