“I told myself, ‘Joy, you will not die. Instead, you will live to inspire and change the narrative on how society views people living with HIV.’”
These are the words of an HIV activist who hails from the small town of Masindi, Uganda, and advocates for the shifting of mindsets towards people living with HIV. This is her story.
“My name is Queen Joy Katwesige, also known as Favour Joy across social media platforms. l am a woman born and living with HIV.
l grew up in an orphanage that housed over 40 children and still live there because the adoption process is complicated right now.
My mother abandoned me in the streets of Masindi when l was a month old. A good Samaritan picked me up and took me to the orphanage.
l never knew my father. The circumstances surrounding my being left in the streets are that my mother could no longer care for me as she was a victim of gender-based violence.
My mother died shortly after had visited me at the orphanage, so my hopes of going to live with her after leaving the orphanage were shattered.
In 2019, l registered myself as a volunteer for reproductive health and also took a course in hotel and catering management. l served for three years as youth president, and that’s how my advocacy began.
It took me time to accept my status and none of my colleagues knew that l was positive until 2021 when l finally spoke out about it due to a pageant called Mr and Mrs Y+, for young people living with HIV.
The following year, l took part in it and was 1st Runner Up Miss Y+ Western Region and Miss Popularity Y+ Uganda 2022/2023. Making it to the top 10 was a great achievement.
Since coming out with my status, l have now become an HIV/AIDS advocate and have spoken on various platforms in my country.
As with almost every person living with HIV, l have faced stigma and discrimination from family members, schoolmates, and the community calling me all kinds of names and always reminding me that l was not going to live long due to my status.
Accepting who l am has helped me. The various spaces l am working in have also nurtured me into a bold woman and activist.
In the future, l would love to launch a project that empowers everyone going through stigma and discrimination. One that empowers women to speak for themselves, become the voice of the voiceless, and encourages them to know their worth in society and take up leadership roles.
My word of encouragement is to love and accept yourself. That is how l managed to overcome a lot of what l faced. Know that HIV is not a death sentence. As long as you accept everything and take care of yourself, you can live a long and healthy life.