TASO played an instrumental role in my life and family-Julie Lukwago
I was born in a big family, the fifth of ten children and grew up in a very stable and loving environment which provided me with a strong foundation. My father always emphasised the value of education and often told us that education was the only lasting legacy he could give us. In his very words, as long as we had education, the sky was the limit. Both our parents strived to give us the best and despite being a large family on a meagre income, the love they showed us and the values they instilled in us meant that we never felt deprived of anything. Unfortunately, our father passed on in June 1992 after several months of illness leaving an inconceivable gap in our lives. His death to AIDS came as a complete surprise to me and all my siblings and we all struggled in various ways to come to terms with it. It was at this crucial time that TASO began to play an instrumental role in my life and for my family as a whole.
First and foremost, TASO provided our mother with counselling services and assisted her to access ARVs, having tested HIV+. But most of all, it provided her with a sense of belonging at a time when fingers were being pointed in her direction in the village where we lived. It was an extremely difficult time for all of us but when our mother joined TASO, she acquired tremendous strength and became a real back- bone on which we all relied. I’m sure things could have turned out differently if it were not for TASO. The TASO family became the springboard for her to reach out to others and be strong not only for us but for several other families affected by HIV. Finger pointing lost its stamina as she became stronger, openly talking about her status and choosing to use it to advise and benefit others through TASO’s sensitisation programmes, giving her testimony on TV, radio and newspapers. The support she received from TASO in turn helped us all as she sailed on struggling to make a living for us, livingly positively and with incredible hope and inner will. She has now lived to be 60years, seen all of us graduate, several of us get married and also been blessed to see lots of grandchildren.
Through our mother’s membership with TASO was another remarkable opportunity waiting to happen for me in particular! I was very lucky to get a scholarship from TASO’s Lady March Scheme for which I am ever so grateful. I was sponsored throughout my O and A level studies. This was very special because it meant that even if my father had now passed on, TASO was in place to provide me with an education – a lasting legacy that my father always talked about. This became a real turning point in my life and I did not take it for granted. Indeed I felt very lucky. This opportunity coupled with a very supportive mother and a loving set of siblings helped me to capitalize on the educational opportunities TASO afforded me to reach out for a brighter future.
Having excelled both at O and A levels, I was admitted to Makerere University on a government scholarship to study Law. I performed very well and was awarded a prestigious Carnegie scholarship to study a Masters in International Trade and Investment Law in South Africa. I am currently employed as Corporate Governance Advisor in the UK and I take every possible opportunity to reach out to others in a similar position I was in after my father’s death. I have had an opportunity to support my younger siblings, extended family members as well as other members of my local community. What TASO did for me is something that sits in a special place in my heart and reaching out to others is my way of giving back. I am also certain that I will return to live in Uganda and my desire is to use my expertise to volunteer with TASO and be part of the wonderful work they do in supporting people affected by HIV AIDS.
As TASO celebrating 25 years of service, it is an opportune time for me to note with sincere gratitude its support for me, my entire family and the various communities of all those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS across the regions in Uganda. On the silver jubilee, this is my message;
- To TASO, what a wonderful 25years! Congratulations and I am proud to be part of your legacy.
- To those orphaned by HIV/AIDS – ‘Don’t despair, you can still make it. Maintaining a positive attitude is a key to success.
- To other members of the public reading this article, don’t stigmatise or discriminate those affected or infected with HIV/AIDS. All they need is love – a little ounce of love can go all the way.
TASO made a commitment to educate me to the highest level-Dr. Shafiq Lubulwa
After being bedridden for more than three years my father passed away due to HIV/AIDS a few months before I sat for Primary Living Exams in 2000. This affected me emotionally and crippled our financial position further as a family of nine children and a widow. I always had to deliver fried edibles to local shops early in the morning before school. Since I was always good in class, I hoped that one day I would stand out as a successful person. I did not want this in any way to put a strain to my arrival time at school. Logically it meant that I had to wake up a little earlier than my colleagues to organize for school and help my mother prepare the eats to be taken for sale.
In the evening I always had to collect the containers to go and purchase items to be used the following day from a far shop that always offered little reduced prices, and then participated in house work. Luckily enough I made it with aggregate 6 in PLE and was selected in my first choice school - Kawempe Muslim Secondary School.
My misery was crowned by the overwhelming bill mother had to meet to ensure that I joined a first class school with a dream that it would be easier for me to make it on Government to save her the higher tuition fees at university. Although my family members were happy for him, none was financially in position to support.
Two years into secondary my hope of continuing school were diminished given the fact that my mother could not single handedly support all my siblings’ education aspirations. Chance came my way when I heard about the social support project at TASO Mulago where my mother was a client which was providing scholarships. On applying I was sponsored which comfortably aided me through secondary. Now that I had more time I worked harder and emerged the school’s best at both levels with 8 in 8 at O’ level and 25 at A’ level offering PCB/M finally making it to Government sponsorship at university.
My dream of being a medical doctor has come to pass. I have graduated from Makerere University College of Healthy Sciences with Bachelors in Human Medicine and Surgery. I pursued this course on government sponsorship. My dream would never have been possible if it were not for TASO Mulago Social support education scheme and the donors who have supported this program so that the disadvantaged can have another opportunity to realize their dreams. My message to the general public is that they should be pillars of support, strength and courage to HIV/AIDS affected children. Otherwise the nation may lose valuable human resource.
The sky is the limit with Positive Living With HIV- Rebecca Musoke - A drama Group member - TASO Mulago
My name is Rebecca Musoke. I am 36 years old. Let me take a few minutes to share with you my life experience.
In 1990, I was in Senior Six and lived with my Aunt. She was unemployed, which led to many financial constraints at home. I often went to school hungry and could not afford breakfast or lunch at school. Upon returning home after classes, I did all the house work that one could think of in a poor family – you can imagine that kind of situation.
After experiencing such struggle for a long time, I decided to get a boyfriend. After all many of my peers had boyfriends and they were living a good life.
I practiced unprotected sex with my boyfriend and I found myself pregnant during my Senior Six vacation. I left my Auntie’s home and stayed with my boyfriend. I gave birth to a baby boy and had a good life with my boyfriend. I thought I had made the best decision. He supported me to pursue a Diploma in Stores Management at Nakawa College of Business Studies.
But before I could complete the course, my boyfriend fell sick, became bedridden and eventually died. His death marked the beginning of my suffering. I returned to my Father’s home deep in the village and because of the change of environment, I also started falling sick.
I was diagnosed with tuberculosis and the medical Officer advised me to go for Voluntary Counseling and Testing. Unfortunately, I turned out to be HIV positive, became afraid because I thought I was too young to contract HIV, and HIV was still only in Rakai.
I am grateful to the counselor who encouraged me to live positively with HIV by accepting my situation, having a balanced diet and protecting myself whenever I had sex in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies, re-infection and infecting others.
The counselor referred me to TASO, where for over 15 years now I have been receiving free counseling, care and medication. I started ARVs in November 2003 when my CD4 count had dropped below 200. But after taking ARVs for over five years, I now feel much better. I also disclosed my sero status to my family and friends.
With the support from TASO, I went back to school and completed a diploma in Social Work and Social administration. I also completed a certificate in HIV/AIDS Counseling at TASO Training Center. I have also recently graduated with an Honors Degree in Social Work and Social Administration at Uganda Christian University in Mukono.
Through Civil Society Funding, I was trained in sustainable livelihoods through small income generating activities. I make crafts like bags and red ribbons from beads, which I sell to earn a living.
In 2003, I decided to share my testimony to save lives by joining TASO Mulago Drama Group where we use music, dance, drama and testimonies to educate communities about HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment. My purpose of doing this is to help young girls to prevent them from going through my sorrows. I always advise them to stick to their studies and abstain until marriage.
I appeal to family members of people living with HIV/AIDS not to stigmatize or discriminate them – all we need is love, care and support.
To our donors, many thanks for supporting TASO to support us and for improving my life.
I overcame stigma and discrimination to excell;Sebastian Walega
Walega Sebastian (42 years) is a resident of Tirinyi Sub-County in Kibuku district. He is blessed with a wife and five children of whom four are still alive. He lost his first wife and all three children born between 1995 and 2002. By then he was not aware of what was killing his children.
After testing HIV positive in the year 2002, Walega who had severe cough stayed at home for almost a year without joining TASO. He was worried about how people will look at him in the village and as a result, he was taken to Kampala where he stayed with a relative as they treated TB but all was in vain until he returned home in Pallisa. While at home, he was encouraged by a community volunteer to join TASO.
He joined TASO in 2004 amidst high stigma and discrimination. Once he reached TASO, he was welcomed and given a counsellor who helped him cope with the stigma and fear that was in him. This facilitated him to take his wife for testing in a nearby facility where AIC was carrying out HIV testing. On receiving positive results for the wife, he brought her to TASO for care and support.
In 2004, he was initiated on ART and felt stronger, free from stigma and able to work on his small turkey project which has enabled him earn a living. He appreciates the work done by TASO for it enabled him return to his income generating activity.
As time went on in the year 2006-7, he was trained as a CASA and since then started counselling peers on ART with in his area. He visits them and encourages them to continue having hope in life regardless of their status.
When the family wished to have another baby, they were counselled and enrolled on the PMTCT programme which has enabled them have two HIV free and healthy children; Emma 4 years and Timothy 9 months. The family is very happy about the children because they had been very worried about that in the past. The mother says “these children came from far”
During the early days of joining TASO for care and support, the family received some food which enabled them save and have their turkey project running. Walega currently has 30 turkeys. Walega says this turkey project has enabled him do a number of things for his family;
- Paying fees and provision of scholastic materials for his children one of whom is in primary seven in a boarding school.
- Plastering his house.
- Bought two oxen which he uses to plough his gardens. These have helped him improve on food security in the home.
- Besides turkeys, he buys and sells cows and on average he earns 50,000/= a week from that business. All the activities combined enabled him to build a 2 door lock up at Tirinyi trading centre and of recent bought a 3 million piece of land in Tirinyi-kibuku district.Walega is now happier in life and more hopeful after joining TASO Mbale for care and support according to him many people disagree with him when he tells them he is HIV positive.