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Blogging Positively: Young Positives Speak Out

The sixth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) stresses the need to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases by 2015. There is a special emphasis on educating and reversing the spread of HIV among those 15-24.

However, the challenge often seems out of reach because of the realities in a world where rape still exists as a weapon of war, where talking about sex and sexuality is still a taboo in many parts of the world, and where women are still exchanged as material goods in the name of the price of the bride.

In Africa, HIV/AIDS is one of the most common diseases affecting young people and one of the leading causes of deaths in many developing countries. According to the situation analysis – Uganda Gender Policy (2007) Uganda Gender Policy (2007) (.pdf format), the findings are a bit hopeful as it found that ‘overall there has been declining trends of HIV infection from a peak of 18% in 1992 to 7% in 2005. The percentages of women who are HIV positive are 7.8% as compared to 6.4% of men, among 15-49 year olds. HIV prevalence for females is 12.8% in urban and 6.5% in rural areas’ but recent statistics indicate that Uganda has approximately 150,000 children living with HIV.

That is how many young people living with HIV contracted the virus, and now an entire generation must face this reality. More and more “young positives” are telling their stories, and these are two examples of young Ugandans who have collaborated with others to share their experiences with others.

I first heard about Barbara Kemigisa in a local church in Kampala, Uganda. She was giving a testimony about her life. When she first started talking, many people in the congregation were ready to hear the common conclusion “I thank God for……..” However, she caught everyone’s attention when she said these words “I am HIV Positive”. The mood changed as she went on narrating her ordeal and how she acquired the disease. She concluded by saying that being HIV positive does not mean the end of the world. She has big dreams just like any other young girl. In July 2010 at the African Youth Forum (AYF) that took place during the Africa Union (AU) meeting in Kampala, I was privileged to hear Barbara speak to the African youth. The talk was recorded and uploaded to YouTube on the AYF channel:

Barbara was also a participant on the reality television show Imagine Afrika, which was a continent-wide program that sought to follow the daily lives of young people across the continent.

In another video produced by Ronald Kasendwa (@kasendwa), we hear the story of another young positive, Winnie Nansumba from Uganda. In the video titled “Gained Hope,” she shares her very personal experience about the challenges faced by children that were born HIV positive. Winnie says she was born in a family of four, but lost all of her siblings to HIV/AIDS. She also shares the difficulties she faced while at school, and how she fought stigma.

Ronald, the producer of this short video about Winnie has been involved in a number of citizen media projects. In 2009, Ronald joined the International Educational & Resource Network (iEARN) under the Adobe Youth Voices program (AYV). While in AYV, Ronald produced a number of media projects intended to create positive social change. For example, he produced a documentary about “Gender Disparity in Science.” The documentary unveiled the hidden causes of low participation and retention of the young girls in the field of science.

With the persistent poverty, exclusion, discrimination, and inadequate investment in social and health services for persons living with HIV/AIDS, there is need to ACT now to stop its spread and effects for the future generations by encouraging young positives to speak out.

12 comments

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  • It’s great to encourage young people to speak out about their status. This helps to fight stigma as well as change people’s perception about HIV/AIDs postives.
    I always hope for an HIV free generation in future. Thanks Barbara and Winnie for being great ambassadors.

    • Peter

      The story is so informative I wish I can have a copy of the recording and use on our community Radio Nakaseke FM 102.9fm. I believe it can be a very resourceful tool to change the youth

    • barbara kemigisa

      most welcome and thanks for the great work u are doin. i jst landed on this page and am so greatful. barbara

      • Thank you so much Barbara for being an inspiration to many young people. I first heard you sharing this testimony at Watoto North then I saw you at the Youth forum during the AU in Entebbe. I was so touched and amazed at your courage and positive attitude towards life. I wish you all the very best in life Barbara.

  • Dear Maureen and All,

    Thanks immensely for this moving and inspiring post, and for introducing us to these incredible young people! It is imperative that HIV/AIDS is addressed in and by the youth population of the world, who are now affected and infected in greater and greater numbers each year.

    We hope the Blogging Positively project will be a helpful tool in this regard, and that citizen media will be more fully utilized in HIV/AIDS prevention, education, and amelioration.

    Thanks for all you have done as a participant in the BP project, including inputs crucial to the creation of the BP e-guide. We look forward with excitement to your continuing presence and contributions, and to reading more such stories of courage, determination, caring, and hope.

    With greatest appreciation and cheers!! Janet

  • I feel proud to know that positively the blod os being used to address the question of HIV/AIDS. This is the safest and in most cases the best confidential medium for those living positively to share information and educate other. In Nigeria, there is a new growing habit of risk taking by the young ones. it is called bone to bone – that is having sex without condom as more and more people claim more satisfaction without condoms. Now this rather unfortunate development erodes the gains that we have made finging this dieases. It is a good development that someone knows how to creatively raise peoples conciousness.

  • pacifique

    it really good to fight for HIV/AIDS especially in universities like what we do as national university of rwanda anti hiv:aids youth club.

  • The cultural and socio economic barriers had prevented youth to step into sex education in Srilanka.This is very much encoraging as they have comeforward to share their expereince to build up the capacity of others to be away from the problems and in creating a just society for HIV positve youth is a much needed issue

  • Emmanuel Oluka

    Hi Maureen,

    Thanks for the post. Nice post indeed. I really like the courage of the girls for sharing their life stories and living positively. I happened to be attending a workshop earlier this week at Mildmay Entebbe Road in Kampala. It was on education using ICT under IICD, Educans anICCO Equal Alliance. Senior Administration of Mildmay came in to welcome us.The deputy director of Mildmay came and shared his story as well. Mildmay does alot of HIV Aids treatment, conselling etc. He said he is HIV postive and has been living with the virus since 1984. Interestingly, he is a medical doctor by profession.
    He encouraged us to go get an HIV test. And by the way, its free of charge. Also, there has been an ICT component added for conselling. One gets to answer those question by clicking on some questionnaire using some form of PC. Questions like when did you last have sex?, Did you use a condom? etc. So the consellors use that information to tailor conselling for you. The link to Mildmay is http://www.mildmay.org/uganda/ For your information, the patron is HE The President. Also, the proceeds from our workshop go to support the activities of Mildmay

  • It is truly amazing for the young woman to be thankful for being HIV positive. It takes such courage to face each day, and I applaud her strength.

    I am so glad I found this post – thank you.

  • It indeed takes so so much Courage Claire. The beauty is that these amazing young girls have accepted this and they are ready to creat positive social change. They will never accept to be victimised and insulted because of their HIV status. The are true ambassadors.

    Thank you so much for reading the post and please do share it with as many people as you can.

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