When Regina, a 20-year-old from south eastern Uganda, was three, she lost her mother to AIDS. Ever since, Regina has relied upon her father for almost everything.
“When I was in fifteen, I became very sick and my father took me to a health center in South Eastern Uganda where I was tested for HIV and learned I had the virus. Although they started me on medication, I thought I was going to die immediately like my mother. I was so scared, and people told me a lot of things” that were not true about HIV.
Regina was able to overcome her fear with accurate information from health center staff and support from her devoted father. “I am so grateful to my father, who decided not to remarry so he could take care of us. In his care I started to get better and was even able to go back to school.”
During a routine visit to Regina’s home a year or two later, a STAR-EC sponsored village health team (VHT) member told Regina about a support group for HIV-positive young people and encouraged Regina to go. The advice, which she took, marked an exciting turning point for Regina.
“My first day at the young positives’ club meeting was the beginning of a new life! I’ve met other people like me and have learned about purpose, self-esteem, and relationships. Now I’ve become a peer educator. I attend health talks at neighboring schools and share what I learn with my younger peers. I’ve encouraged a lot of young people to join the club and now we have 40 members.”
Regina’s desire to help others carries into her future plans as well. “STAR-EC has been so supportive to me and my family. I’m saving money so I can take a nurse’s aid training course and care for other people.”