The trading center is typically a bustling area with vendors selling dry goods like maize flour and dried beans to cold drinks and fresh foods like fish, beef, and vegetables. When I meet with Mary, the trading center is quiet; everyone is at the HIV outreach.
Mary is a VHT in Ituba B and has been working with UVP since the partnership in Ituba began in 2018. As a relative newlywed (she and her husband have been married for less than two years), she does not have any children. Mary’s husband works in Entebbe, a few hours from the village, so he is only home every couple of weeks. Due to her home life, Mary has ample time to spend educating community members on the various health programs supported by Ituba’s partnership with UVP. When UVP hosted the first HIV outreach, Mary was at the front lines encouraging people to come for testing and stay for education. She also took the opportunity to get herself tested, and in a rare moment, her husband was in the village and also decided to get tested.
She remembers the day vividly; she was wearing her best gomesi and bustling around the event directing people and ensuring the health care workers were tended to when her number was called to go for counseling to receive her results. She sat with the counselor from St. Mary’s under the nearby mango tree for some privacy and learned that she was HIV positive. At first she was devastated and fearful; what would her husband say? Would he think she was not faithful? Would he leave her?
With guidance from the counselor, Mary broke the news to her husband, who tested negative. The counselor told the couple that it was possible to remain in a happy marriage with one HIV positive partner, and began to discuss methods of prevention. “I was so happy he decided not to break the marriage,” Mary said, a smile spreading across her face as she remembered that moment under the mango tree.
Without the UVP outreach, Mary may have gone many more years not knowing her status and possibly infecting her husband, Because of this service, Mary and her husband can actively prevent the spread of HIV and share their story with their community to encourage them to test and work to combat stigma and misinformation.
*Mary’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.
By Josephine Asio, Program Coordinator