Students living with HIV/Aids have decried stigma in schools where peers give them funny names and teachers using them as examples during reproductive health classes.

According to Huzairu Nyanzi, an HIV-positive student at Institute of Certified Public Accountants (ICPA), many infected students keep their status to themselves for fear of being blacklisted.

“When you disclose openly to a few students that you are HIV-positive or when they find you taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs, they can spread rumors in the whole school and you end up being isolated. We are facing a difficult life at school,” said Nyanzi, the reigning Mr Y+ (Young people living with HIV).

“Some start to nickname you things like ‘taata kiwuka [father of virus] or mutambuza biwuka [virus transmitter]’ and many others, which is so depressing at our teenage age.”

L-R First Runner up Mr Y+ 2017/18 Godfrey Obuwa, Miss Y+ Bonita Kyobutungi and Mr Y+ Huzairu Nyanzi

Nyanzi was speaking at a meeting last week where Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU) in partnership with UNFPA-Uganda and Reach a Hand Uganda (RAHU) discussed innovative strategies to fight HIV.

It was noted that discrimination goes beyond students whereby teachers use HIV-positive students as case studies and other call them names such as ‘nandwadde’ (ever-sick) when they miss class. This affects their class performances.

Bonita Kyobutungi, Miss Y+ and a student of Bishop Cyprian Kihangire SS Luzira, said young girls should not fear to disclose their HIV status because it is their life at stake.

“I disclosed my HIV status because I want to act as an ambassador for young people living with HIV and this will help us to fight the pandemic and live longer. I don’t fear taking drugs at school since it’s for my life and without it, I can’t live longer. I have talked to my colleagues and they have also opened up now and don’t fear to talk about it,” she said.

UNFPA’s Dr Christine Nabiryo said blamed parents for the increasing rates of new HIV infections. She said parents ‘busy’ themselves and forget to talk to their children about dangers of HIV/Aids.

“The systems that used to be there like the aunties, cultural and religious leaders to talk and guide our children are no longer there. If we don’t talk to our children, they will die of HIV,” she said.

She said at least 360 young people get infected with HIV every week in Uganda as some are looking for quick money, others through early marriages and/or defilement.

“This is so threatening to our country; as parents, we need to style up and talk to our children,” she said.

Dr Carol Nakazzi of Uganda Aids Commission said we can end HIV if all people do their responsibilities: parents must advise their children to stay in school, religious leaders should stop marrying young couples and police must arrest defilers.

by Zurah Nakabugo