Meet and Greet: “All this did not change what he felt for me”

September 29, 2015

Barbara Kemigisa is a strong and cheerful 29 years-old Ugandan, soon to be married. She is at the forefront to fight HIV related stigma and to support young people living with HIV. However life has not always been prosperous to her. Being a young woman more vulnerable to HIV than boys her age, she has faced many challenges. Meet Barbara!

Confused, bitter and hopeless

At an age of 22 I had dealt with too many different challenges. All that had happened in my life got me confused, bitter, hopeless and I had given up on life. In childhood I was sexually abused for 5 years by my uncles. As a result I developed a lifestyle of sexual activities with multiple partners and other habits like drinking alcohol and smoking. My father did not understand and forced me to leave home. I sought refuge on the streets of Kampala. Here I got pregnant and found out I was HIV positive. I gave birth to a baby girl who I have looked after single handedly. 

A fresh start

I found strength in my religion. I started to accepted my status, learnt to forgive those that had hurt me, dealt with every pain and as a result I found hope, and a fresh start to make a difference in my community. The Infectious Diseases Institute’s Transition Clinic gave me an opportunity to become peer educator. We shared our stories through different forms of media and at every opportunity we are called up for example in school, churches, conferences, magazines among others through Not all That Glitters is Gold and HIV Stops with Me campaigns. These have helped create an impression towards HIV as well as on people living with HIV themselves. Through these activities I was awarded with The Young Achievers’ Award 2011 under Leadership and Governance. 

He didn’t change his mind

I met my fiancé last year in July. He had a small library and he did a lot of filming. I would go there to pick movies and sometimes watch from there. I later recommended him to film one of our HIV reach outs at one of the universities. We became  friends and started spending most of our time together.

About my HIV status, he got to know the moment he entered my house because I had every publication about me pinned on my wall. He saw the medicines and all remaining was for me to explain. All this did not change what he felt for me and later I took him to hospital so that a doctor could tell him about discordancy. He still didn’t change his mind and after three months, he proposed to me. I‘m blessed with my life.

Barbara Kemigisa is a young women advocate for International Community of Women living with HIV Eastern Africa. This organisation is partner in the Link Up programme.