By Beatrice Nyangoma
There is no easy time to any one as a time when one tests HIV/AIDS positive. In fact one of the first thoughts that come to one’s mind is death! One thinks that they are dead or about to die but they are just buying time.
Martha Clara Nakato 21, tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide eight times after she tested HIV positive at the age of 14. Whereas most people go for testing after having unprotected sex, Clara was still a virgin, in fact she tested having accompanied her twin brother who had had several unprotected sexual encounters and felt at risk.
“My twin brother Wasswa asked me to accompany him for an HIV test, at my age I did not find it really important to test because I was still a virgin and I mean I did not have any information on HIV. But you know, as a teenager, I was inquisitive and just wanted to go through what my twin brother was so I took the test that we both at the same time.” she narrates
As the twins waited for the results, Martha was strong because she expected the obvious results, there was no way her results could turn out positive.
“I was instead feeling nervous on behalf of my brother. At that time Wasswa was not even talking to me, he was shivering. He started telling me the girls she had slept with and those he suspects could have infected him in case the results came out positive, I felt pity for him.” she adds
Results coming out, Nakato was found HIV positive instead and her twin brother Wasswa was negative. “I told the nurse that there was a mistake, it’s my brother who is positive and not me. The nurse meant what she was telling me! It was true; I was positive of HIV/AIDS.” she added.
But how did Martha get infected?
“The health facility from which we tested was near our home and our dad was known to most of the facility staff. I requested the nurse to take me home because all I could think about was going to a high way and get knocked by a vehicle, but I wanted my father to know my status first.”
Nakato with the company of her brother and the nurse broke the news to her father. He was however furious at the nurse who made HIV/AIDS tests on her children without his consent and he even threatened to take a legal action against the health facility.
She was instead confused as the only person whom she expected to understand her situation was not helping either. “I mean, I knew nothing about sex, I was still a virgin and am tested positive and the only person who I expected to stand with and support me was instead angry that I knew my status.” she says
That evening, Nakato went to a shop and bought rat poison to end her life because she had no one left to listen to her problems but also she felt dead anyway.
Nakato was however unsuccessful after she was rushed for medical attention before it would have any impact on her.
Her father would the following day tell her how she was born with the HIV virus and that her mother had died of HIV as opposed to lung cancer like they claimed.
“Growing up we knew that our mother had died of lung cancer but it wasn’t until I tested HIV positive that my father spoke the truth. The doctors were able to prevent the virus from passing on from my mother to my twin brother but it was the case for me because I came two hours later.” she says
Having known how she acquired the virus, Nakato did not want to go through the long term ailment like her mother and so she tried several means of ending her life. From over drinking alcohol, to jumping from buildings to drowning herself in a swimming pool but unsuccessfully.
But how did she reach 14 years without falling sick like many other children born with the virus?
“I happen to come from a well to do family where we had a family doctor who would be there in case of any ailment. So it was very hard to know what I was suffering from because my job was to only take the medicines given to me without knowing what exactly I was taking.”she notes
Her father also told her that she had been taking Septrine since her childhood as one of the medication for the virus.
Nakato’s father later took her to Kamwokya Caring Community where she used to pick her medication. From there she started interacting with the people in her same category and learnt how to move on positively.
However, Nakato recalls that the biggest challenge was at school she would regularly falling sick and would miss classes.
“I told some of my close friends at school about my status and they instead spread the word around the school. Everyone was looking at me as a walking dead person. I felt like leaving school and wait for my day to die since I had attempted to commit suicide for eight times and I was unsuccessful.”
Nakato was forced to change to a day school because she needed frequent medical attention and she couldn’t handle the stigma at the boarding school.
In 2014, while in senior six, Nakato was introduced to The Aids Support Organization-TASO from where she got a different picture to life.
“I met my age mates who were going through situations that were worse than mine. Some of them had lived reckless lives but they were positive towards life. They were adherent to the drugs, they studied what the disease they are living with requires and they were making changes in society. I was inspired, and since then I have preached about HIV/AIDS with evidence.” she says beaming with a smile
In her advocacy work, Nakato has met thousands of youth in schools and tertiary institutions to sensitize them on HIV/AIDS.
“I joined music, dance and drama clubs and last year I contested for the Young positives beauty pageant and I was voted as the queen for the central region. This pageant has taken me to places and I have also inspired more young positive girls to look at life differently. I hope to do more work after I complete my bachelors’ course at Kyambogo university.” she adds
Nakato appeals to the government to construct or gazette youth friendly corners in health facilities so that they get the right counseling about HIV.
“I think I attempted suicide because I had no one to talk to me before and after testing. This is a component missing in our health facilities that a 15 year old will wait from the same health Centre reception with a 40 year old and both will be attended by the same person and yet these two age groups have different information needs.” Nakato says
The Uganda Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (UPHIA) national survey conducted in August 2016 and March this, the prevalence of HIV among adults aged 15 and 64 in Uganda is 6.2%.
The survey also indicates a prevalence of 0.5% prevalence among children aged 0-14 years which is about 95,000 children living with HIV. It also reveals that among the young adults, there is a disparity in HIV prevalence by sex. HIV is almost four times higher among females than males aged 15-24 years.