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.