The Story of Tina
Story by Achan Agnes Aida
Kampala, 20th March 2023
Tina is 64 years old. She is a mother of 4 children. She lives in Banda B1, a big slum in Kampala suburbs, her house is located near Meeting Point International (MPI) cultural centre in Kireka. She used to see women gathering and having fun at MPI’s premises. She was curious about who these women were, and therefore she decided to join them: it was 2003. That year Tina’s health conditions were not good: she was very thin and her body was full of rashes. In 2006, she tested HIV positive, and this made her feel deeply depressed and traumatised, because she was worried that she was going to die. After she tested HIV positive, she decided to attend the weekly meeting in Naguru, the other Meeting Point cultural centre, due to the fear that people in her community in Kireka could know about her status.
At MPI, Tina met Rose Busingye, the founder and director. With time and with Rose’s teachings, Tina started discovering that she is not defined by the sickness she has, and this made her become aware of her value, which is greater than her problems. This companionship helped Tina to gain courage and later she started sharing her experience with the other clients of MPI. According to Tina, Rose’s teachings and friendship helped her gain confidence with time and she started attending the weekly meeting with Kireka members again. In her encounter with MPI, Tina received from Rose and the other members a love and care that no one in her family had ever given her in life. After she was found HIV positive, she even thought of being rejected and not expecting anyone to talk or move close to her. Surprisingly for her, Rose embraced her and loved her the way she was. Also the members of MPI welcomed her with much love that made her feel she was in the right place, a place she belongs.
She has got friends who are accompanying her, journeying together with her to face the challenges of reality. Rose’s teachings about the importance of the value that every human has, made her aware of her value which is greater than the sickness she has or the problems she is facing in life. She took some time to understand Rose’s teachings, but later on she understood that she is not reduced by her sickness.
This was the beginning of her new journey, a journey of freedom… Journeying to her freedom, her mind opened up and she started thinking in a different way, she is now free to tell people about her status, to openly say that she is HIV positive. She even shows people the medicine she is taking, freely. From that time, she does not keep quiet about her status and in fact her story has helped other members who are in the same situation. She is always the immediate example Rose uses during the meetings with the clients. Many times the example of Tina’s life has helped many people to disclose to Rose their HIV positive status. People feel free to be themselves, because they have discovered that MPI and its people don’t reduce anyone to the circumstances they are living in, but they embrace them the way they are.
Tina keeps on being an example and giving support to other MPI people who found themselves HIV positive: she is always there for them, giving them hope through her personal experience. Tina always tells the other members that her recent tests don’t reflect HIV in her blood (low viral load) and so she even gives members the hope of getting better.
Tina is living a happy and free life where she has gained hope in doing everything to earn a living. She eats well, drinks a lot of fluids and is free from stress, as taught by Rose through food and nutrition programs. She, therefore, always keeps encouraging other clients to follow the doctor’s advice because that is what is helping her. Of the same importance are Rose’s teachings, another greater treatment according to her experience.
Up to now, Tina still asks herself this question: “Who am I to be welcomed the way I am?”. Looking at her past and present experience, MPI is the home where she belongs.