Do you love stories? Real-life stories?
I, for one, do….so much. I want to share this particular story with you, as it was shared with me, by a close friend of mine, Derrick.
I hope you like it. I did love it.
I am Mbalya Derick mostly know as DRIC HIV + ADOIN on the social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
I am 26 years old Ugandan Living with HIV, Motivation speaker, an HIV Advocate for Adolescents and Young People living with HIV, Sexuality Education expert, 2016 HIV courage award winner, All time best social media award winner, the only person in Uganda with an HIV ribbon tattoo on my arm and “GetUpSpeakOut” Program officer and Eastern Regional coordinator at Uganda Network Of Young People Living With HIV/AIDS.
I was born in 1993 in April with HIV. I lost my mother in 2001 duo to HIV and AIDS.
Life started being so hard for me because I used to fall sick and rushes on my body.
During my primary and secondary level the stigma and discrimination was too much. Many people used to say to me that I won’t live up to 20 years and some children (Classmates) used to avoid me. During the school days, I could only have my own line to have my lunch served to me and also I had my own sit that was suggested by the class teacher in the class. Some time you would take a walk with in the community and people could start painting, laughing and shooting at you that “A WALKING DIE.” But with all what people used to say to me my counselor used to encourage me. In 2009 my counselor from The Aids Support Organization –Tororo branch (TASO) disclosed to me that I had HIV and that is the reason why you are taking medication and people discriminating you. After hear all that, I felt confused and regretting why I was born. I started using drugs such as drinking alcohol and smoking weed and other substances in order to forget what was happening to me. I stopped taking my treatment because I knew that I was going to die very soon. When I felt sick again my counselor counseled me including my friend who was also living with HIV. I picked something from my friend’s story and it made me strong.
In 2010 I had relocated to start living with my aunt in Jinja district. I had to join Aids Information center Jinja branch (AIC) for my refuels. In 2011 Aids Information Center-Jinja branch saw that I had voice and talent in music that I can use to change different communities within Uganda. They started training me in going public with my HIV status for three months, after the training I first disclosed to my aunt, other family members and friends then I did my six month disclosure campaign on the social media that was under DRIC HIV+ ADONI. During the disclosure campaign I had some challenges where people were asking me in all name why do you call yourself such a name but I remember saying to myself what I started I have to finish it. It was online campaign which motivated more people on facebook and twitter. I have worked with different organizations in creating awareness in Uganda such as Reproductive Health Uganda Iganga breach, Public Health ambassadors Uganda, Health and Care Foundation Uganda, Child Fund Jinja branch and also PEER TO PEER Uganda as Project coordinator.
In 2015/16 I participated in annual Yplus beauty pageant which is conducted by Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV (UNYPA) under theme “Beauty with Zero Discrimination” and I came up as the first runners up in eastern regional and Second runners up at the national level. Through that campaign I managed to sensitize different communities in Uganda in ending HIV Stigma and Discrimination amongst Adolescents and Young People Living with and affected with HIV and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights. I graduated in guidance and counseling from Busoga University and I have also managed to go back for further education currently studying public administration and management at Management Training And Advisory Centre.
My advice to the young people and adults out there, know your HIV status and if you find out that you are HIV positive please take medication so that you can have a suppressed viral load and to those who are negative please use ABC because HIV/AIDS is real.
Under the #GetUpSpeakOut project I have trained young people living with HIV to go public with their HIV statue and also I have lobbied for different platforms for young people living with HIV representation on the sub-county AIDS committee, District AIDS committee and Health center management committee in Jinja, Iganga and Bugiri district.
“I believe bad things in life could be a blessing and a gift. Being HIV positive should not be a challenge but only if you accept, use the space and available opportunities to challenge others who see that you can’t make in life if you are HIV positives. Let your past be your history to motivate other”.
Ps. All photos seen here belong to Derrick, himself. Need to use them, just holla at him and get clearence.