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Christian mom calls for interventions to reduce HIV/AIDS stigma

27-year-old Barbara Kemigisa contracted HIV at 22 but lives to tell her story to empower others.

PARLIAMENT – Mrs Barbara Katabazi, a christian mother and activist who told God she will use her ‘HIV story’ for His glory, has during her meeting with the Parliament Committee on HIV/AIDS asked legislators to support campaigns tackling stigma and discrimitation in the country.

Barbara who is now head of Pill Power, a local Non-Governmental Organization in Kampala called out MPs on Wednesday, 19 September, 2018 to promote strategies, which are inclusive in the fight against HIV/AIDS, noting that these initiatives should encourage adherence to anti-retroviral drugs, increased sensitization and supporting income generating activities of people living with HIV/AIDS.

A recent report on the level of HIV discrimination conducted in 18 districts in Uganda by National Forum of People Living with HIV Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU) with support from UNAIDS and Uganda AIDS Commission revealed that out of 1000 HIV positive people surveyed, 23 percent reported losing jobs, and some were discriminated at work by either their co-workers or employers.

Furthermore, the study showed low education levels among HIV positive people, yet education majorly contributes to self awareness and may influence life situations.

Barbara Katabazi gave her testimony to the Committee saying that she faced rejection from several people after she declared that she was HIV positive.

“My husband is HIV negative and when people, including his relatives heard that he was marrying a girl who is HIV positive, they had no kind words for me,” said Katabazi, according to a statement from Parliament.

She said continued stigmatization affects the fight against the disease as those living with HIV tend to shy away from speaking out, hence risking more infections.

“We have chosen to recycle ARV bottles to make flower vases. This is intended to send a message to those who are infected that there is no life without ARVs while showing those who are not infected that taking ARVs is a big burden and they should avoid contracting the virus,” said Katabazi.

Barbara was with Douglas Mugabe, a youth living with HIV/AIDS who asked the MPs to stop pastors from misleading people living with HIV/AIDS.

“These pastors are killing people by telling them to stop taking drugs and depend on only prayers. Their message should instead be encouraging people to take their drugs while praying,” said Mugabe.

He also called on Parliament to ensure availability of septrin, saying that the drug is effective in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.
The Chairperson of the Committee, Hon Judith Alyek (NRM, Kole district) assured the youths that the Ministry of Health was addressing the issue of shortage of septrin.

“There is a stock out of septrin in the country but in the recent meeting with the Ministry [of Health], we were assured that the drug will soon be available,” said Alyek.

Hon. Violet Akurut (NRM, Katakwi district) encouraged the youth to continue sensitizing young people about HIV/AIDS.
“As scientists are trying to find a cure for HIV/AIDS, organizations like yours should continue encouraging your peers to adhere to treatment,” said Akurut.

Her Story

Barbra Kemigisa was sexually abused at 6-11 years of age by her uncles; as a result of this she developed a lifestyle of sexual activities with multiple partners and other habits like drinking alcohol and smoking. During this process, Kemigisa got pregnant and when she went for antenatal care, she was found HIV positive. Well, before the nurse took a sample of her blood, she had prayed to God that He use whichever results she received for His glory.

Today, she is an activist strongly encouraging HIV/AIDs patients to go for treatment and take responsibility of their lives. She is also a strong advocate against HIV-related stigma globally.

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