STAR-EC leads a path from fear to understanding

Thirty-three year old Margaret is one of many HIV-positive mothers who have benefited from STAR-EC’s support in rural Uganda.

When Margaret’s husband died in 2005 after a long illness, Margaret was alone with their two children. She, along with others in her community, believed that her husband had died of witchcraft. And when Margaret became ill two years later, she was convinced that the person who killed her husband had begun to follow her.

When a STAR-EC village health team (VHT) member visited Margaret’s home, he asked Margaret if she had ever been tested for HIV. She hadn’t—and was afraid to. But “The VHT told me it was good practice for one to know his/her HIV status, and referred me to the local health center for counseling and testing.”

Margaret took his advice and, upon testing, learned that she was HIV-positive. The health worker gave Margaret some medicine and talked to her about positive living. “I felt comfortable there and developed a good rapport with the health care workers,” explained Margaret. “After two months on the medication my health improved. I stopped falling sick and started working normally. That is when I real­ized that my husband had not died from witchcraft.”

During subsequent visits, Margaret learned that HIV-positive women can have HIV-negative babies if they attend antenatal appointments and follow health worker’s advice on how to prevent transmission of HIV to children. Margaret did both, and went on to have two more healthy children.

Today Margaret is healthy and supports her family by farming and her small business. She hopes to expand her farm’s production so that she can put her children through school. She also lends her support to other women in her village who are coping with HIV.

“STAR-EC has helped me understand that being HIV-positive doesn’t mean you can’t care and provide for your children and yourself.”