Friday, August 15, 2008

I am called Ayoo Proscovia - Final Installment!

The following is a first person story written by IRMA advocate Ayoo Proscovia. Click here to check out her Friendly Rectal Microbicide Advocate bio.

This is the final of 4 installments.

Read the previous installments here


Openness helped me get lots of friends and lots of support especially in the form of treatment; I had no home/house but now have been able to acquire some pieces of land where I've built a small house for myself and the children, I am no longer scared of HIV and especially the stigma associated to it, I have also been able to support many highly learned /professionals go for HIV tests and live positively and many who qualify -adhere to ARVs. Through my support I was able to counsel them and also refer them for HIV services.

In 2006, the Ministry of Education through the Grant given to World Vision was able to use me to give testimonies to about 500 College lecturers so as to encourage them to take HIV tests and access services. There was a good response and turn up and many are now benefiting from AIDS Services.

As part of the benefits of being open, I have been selected as the District representative for people living with HIV/AIDS at the Uganda AIDS Commission National conferences that take place every year in Uganda.

I also attended the recent Microbicides 2008 Conference in New Delhi -India 23rd-27th February 2008. Something am very proud of and look forward to several other such opportunities to come my way.

After the 11th International conference at Kampala 2003, we were able to form the National Forum for People with HIV/AIDS Networks in Uganda(NAFOPHANU) where I am now one of the District co-ordinators and my network is called Tororo Forum for People Living with HIV/AIDS Networks(TOFPHANET) with committee members who are HIV positive themselves, we have young positives with us, that is, the children who are HIV positive (below 18 years) and some are taking ARVs too. Some are as young as 6,8, 11 or 14 years old.

I urge Uganda Human rights to look into my case for support and to be listened to.

CDC was taking my CD4 cell counts every 3 months since 1st September 2003 till January 2007 where I had between 62 in 2003 and about 358 in December 2007.

What interests me most is that when I got the opportunity to fly to India for the Microbicides conference, I had a high jump on the increase of my CD4.

My most recent result is 508(July 2008)

MY BELIEF IS THAT: 'There is no conceivable situation in which it is not safe to trust in God'. St Augustine wrote: "TRUST THE PAST TO THE MERCY OF GOD, THE PRESENT TO HIS LOVE, AND THE FUTURE TO HIS PROVIDENCE".


O God, I never waken up to find myself forsaken- to find you are not present. To find your power diminished; To find your wisdom at an end; To find your patience with me exhausted; Again and again I fail you in behaving foolishly- Forgive me and let me try again; Refresh me and renew my old eagerness. I thank you with all my heart- for pleasures and surprises that keep on coming; Stimulating problems to solve; Loyal friends to support me. What I ask for myself today, I ask for them too, O GOD. AMEN


In October 2007, a friend, a fellow positive here in Uganda gave me a paper with instructions and information about the Microbicides conference/abstract writing and scholarship offers for India. Since I am working with people living with HIV/AIDS as my own initiative on voluntary basis, and being HIV positive myself, I decided to apply for a scholarship and wrote an abstract entitled 'ACCEPTABILITY OF THE USE OF MICROBICIDES AMONG CLIENTS IN RURAL SETTING IN SOROTI -UGANDA'.

I noted that with the advent of Anti-Retroviral Therapy and the subsequent improvement it brought to the quality of life of those enrolled in the treatment programs has ushered PHAs into a new era of life where they can live longer and better lives. With improved health, PHAs have regained the strength and desire to resume and pursue aspirations such as sexual activity and getting partners.

The demands arising from these aspirations coupled with the needs to the need to adhere to treatment and sustain preventive behaviour, have resulted in challenges that require appropriate strategies to empower PHAs to cope and here Microicides shall be well accepted because maintaining safer sexual behavior is a challenge as evidenced by the unsafe sexual behaviour and occurrences of STIs.

One of our principle task in the advocacy for Microbicides is to promote sexual self-determination in the cultural frame-work of the Tororo Forum for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Women face more problems when HIV becomes a part of their lives.We encourage them to know their rights and recognize their risks. For one woman, the risks may be domestic violence, for the another poverty, low self-esteem, sexual abuse/assault or alcohol dependence.

Apart from the physiological factors like the large surface area of the vagina, the prolonged contact with sexual fluids and the fact that sexually transmitted infections do not easily show, there are social factors like the inability to negotiate for safer sex, poverty and subordinating compulsory marriages, rape and defilement, dry or forced sex and genital mutilation which expose women to infection.

When we started noting how much more vulnerable young women were to HIV, both for biological reasons and because men are the ones who generally make the ultimate decisions regarding condom use, we thought giving women including those in marriages that may not be monogamous a tool to protect themselves against HIV, without having to have complicit agreement from their partner could drastically impact the rate of HIV infection in our rural communities.

We haven't seen the drugs yet, but continue to advocate for it in Soroti and Uganda as a whole.

At the conference in India, I moved around the booths and came across the Advocacy Networking Guide which enabled me to visit International Rectal Microbicides Advocates in the Advocates Corner and Family Health International were I met Sarah V Harlan and another colleague. They interviewed me and recorded my voice as I narrated my story and testimony of how I have lived with the virus for over 10 years and how much stigma and discrimination I have faced from members of my family, communities and how I lost my job as Headmistress in a school in Tororo district in Uganda.

I signed in their books and have since been in constant communication with them.

I feel great and lucky to be associated with IRMA/Microbicide Trials Network` and always want to continue being in touch with them for the counseling support they provide for me-the same of which I also transfer to my peers in the community where I live.

[Editor's note - Thank you sooooooo much, Ayoo Proscovia, for your wonderful story! It is so inspiring ---- keep up your fantastic work and continue to stay healthy and strong! We hope to see you soon...]

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