Stigma against HIV and transphobia negatively impacts the lives of transgender women in Uganda, Charlotte (not real name) a transgender woman tells us her story;
Back in 2011 when I was 13 years old, my mother left me in the care of my grandmother, now 82 years old. I never heard from her since. I did not get the chance to know my mother. Losing her and the feeling of being abandoned is traumatic and I get reminded of this loss every time I see my friends with and being cared for by their mothers. Only the love I have for my grandmother has kept me strong throughout this ordeal.
When he noticed my female mannerisms, my uncle who stayed within the compound took me to a hospital centered within Mbale City where a doctor attempted to convince me that one cannot be transgender. As a result, my mistrust issues towards health institutions heightened and I avoided hospitals for a while. When we got back home my uncle and cousins insulted me and said I’m a curse. They said being LGBTIQ is evil and something that only white people do. I was mentally flabbergasted so I immediately left home and got into bad company before meeting up with transgender sex workers who took me under their wing, unfortunately things didn’t go well and I contracted HIV. I did not know this since I was devoid of health complications.
I met my ex-boyfriend who took good care of me. Unfortunately I used to fall sick all the time not knowing that my immune system was very low. I gathered up courage and visited a private Clinic around Mbale still for general check-up where I was diagnosed HIV positive. I felt like it was the end of my life, but due to thorough counseling and personal online research, I accepted the results and got enrolled on ART without the knowledge of my partner. A few months later I went out to visit my friends leaving my boyfriend in the house alone. He snooped on my property and found my tin of ART. I was greeted by a slap when I got back home, he said I wanted to kill him. That night he went out drinking and told all our mutual friends that I am HIV positive. I was so ashamed that I fled in the dead of the night risking arrest due to COVID-19 lockdown and curfew restrictions.
A peer counselor in Mbale says, it is important that we embrace LGBTIQ people in Uganda who are living with HIV. She also urges us to seek counseling instead of turning to Intimate Partner Violence.
This story was compiled by our correspondent Hassan Mubuya from Mbale. He informed us that Charlotte now lives with a friend who agreed to host her in Kampala until she finds her footing. Charlotte continues to adhere to her ART and is receiving counseling.