9 January 2013

Uganda: Student Overcomes Fear of HIV Stigma

Charles Okurut who had dropped out of school early last year because of his HIV status has now resumed schooling.

The 13-year-old was put on septrin tablets because of a fall in his CD-4 count. However, in April that year he developed a skin rash as a reaction to the anti-retroviral drugs.

He was also malnourished and his guardian could not afford to provide him with a balanced diet. He would always catch a cold in the morning and evenings, had general body weakness coupled with vomiting.

His peers later found out he was HIV-positive and taunted him. "My friends ran away from me. They abandoned the desks at which I sat," Okurut says.

Tapenensi Nansubuga, his elder sister, says after abandoning school, Okurut would loiter the village and climb trees to pass time.

But that is no more. He is back at school. This followed the assistance he received after a story about his plight was published by New Vision last year.

The Strengthening HIV/AIDS Response in East and Central Africa, a nongovernment organisation, donated to Okurut food rich in proteins for three months.

Joweria Kasiri, the nursing officer at Kamuli Hospital is happy that taking ARVs has given Okururt the strength to return to school.

Before he returned to class, the headteacher, Samuel Dhiwerera counselled Okurut and ensured that his teachers and classmates treated him with love.

The strategy yielded positive results and Okurut was promoted to Primary Four last year. "My life was in danger and I would be dead by now had it not been for Vision Group," Okurut said in an interview recently.

It is believed Okurut contracted the virus from his parents, who died of HIV/AIDS in the early 2000s.

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