“I love to live a positive life” – Daphine, Uganda
“I thought I’d never get married, I thought I’d never get anyone to love me, I thought HIV positive people never give birth and I thought HIV positive people never become happy,” says Daphine, 19 from Kampala, Uganda.
Daphine is one of nearly 940,000 young people supported by Link Up across five countries.
Working in Uganda, Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia and Myanmar, Link Up aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young people most affected by HIV, so they can make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Young people most affected by HIV include people living with HIV, people who identify as LGBT, sex workers, and young people who use drugs.
The stigma and discrimination associated with belonging one or more of these ‘groups’ means young people are less likely to access the services they are entitled to. Link Up has been effective at breaking down these barriers.
The programme engaged with young people to deliver peer to peer services, including counselling, providing referrals to HIV and STI testing and treatment, and delivering sexual and reproductive health and rights training and mentoring. Link Up also worked with existing service providers to improve their understanding of young people’s needs and rights.
Previously it would have been difficult for a young, unmarried woman to request contraceptives, especially someone living with HIV, as many people including health workers would expect them to abstain from sex.
Daphine is a typical teenager, proud to be delivering positive health messages. Her boyfriend is not living with HIV but knows her status. Adolescents are the first generation never to have known a world without HIV, but they are also the generation that can create a world where everyone – regardless of HIV status - can live healthy, fulfilled lives.
Through Link Up Daphine has received HIV treatment and care at Kisakye Youth Centre, MildMay Uganda, and counselling and information about HIV and her sexual and reproductive health rights that have changed her outlook on life. She went on to receive training in peer-to-peer counselling, data collection (for outreach work), and sexual and reproductive health and rights training.
Her Link Up training has given her skills and confidence to help others and also look to own future. She has been a peer educator through MildMay and has started a voluntary position in its HIV, youth-friendly, pharmacy which she hopes will lead on to paid employment.
The support network of close friends that she has developed through Link Up are life-changing too, and she knows she can have relationships and also get married, and can start a family, but only when she’s ready, “not before I’m 25,” she laughs, “I’m too young!”
Daphine is thankful to the people who have supported her on her tough journey, especially since her mother died in 2013. Friends of her mother, who she describes as “my new family”, have taken her in as part of their family and given security and stability. She also wants to thank CHAU, MildMay, the Link Up project and her peers.
Community Health Alliance Uganda (CHAU) is the Link Up partner in Uganda.