“My boyfriend and I were very young,” she recalls. “But, we thought we were in love and we became curious with our bodies and did not think about any of the risks that come with unprotected sex.”
In 2014, Rose contracted HIV. It took her a year and many malaria misdiagnoses to finally find out what had made her so weak and sick.
“We went to all the nearby health centers. But, she never got better. Then, her father and I went for an HIV test. We asked the doctor to test us because we feared that we might have infected her at birth,” shares Lute Felera, Rose’s mother. “However, our results came back negative.”
Later that week, her parents took her to see the same doctor so that she could also get tested. Her results came back positive.
“I could see the disappointment in their eyes. I gathered courage and explained how I contracted the disease, then the doctor gave us advice on how I can live a normal, long and healthy life,” shares Rose.
For Rose, life was far from normal. Her parents adhered to the doctor’s advice and did their best to provide for Rose’s nutritional needs, offer her emotional support and encourage her to continue with her studies.
Sadly, in early 2016, her father, who was the main breadwinner of the family, passed away. The death of Rose’s father brought a lot of changes to the Felera household. Lute could no longer afford to pay for Rose’s school fees so Rose had to drop out of school and go to work as house help for a well-to-do family in the community.
“My time there [with the well-to-do family] was difficult. I was mistreated and got shouted at constantly. I became very depressed so I rarely ate,” she explains. “I also stopped taking my medication because it made me feel worse when I took the pills on an empty stomach.”
Without proper HIV treatment adherence, Rose’s health deteriorated. She lost a lot of weight, developed shingles and battled persistent colds. It was at this time that she met One Community’s CRP Christina Davison. Rose confided in Christina and told her of the challenges that she was facing.
With Rose’s consent Christina reported the child labor case to a child protection worker in the area. Together, they counselled Rose’s mother and ensured that Rose left her job to return to school. Christina also referred Rose to Livuzu Health Center where she resumed treatment and counseling on drug adherence. In addition, Rose’s mother was linked to a One Community VSL group where she was able to save and borrow money to revive their family business.
In late 2016, Rose returned to school to finish her primary school education. CRP Christina continued to support Rose by conducting weekly visits and introduced her to Livuzu support group for young people living with HIV where Rose meets with her peers every month and they play games as well as receive education on broader topics of HIV/AIDS including adherence and positive living.
“I used to constantly worry about what kind of future I would have—whether I would get married or have children. These days my status does not worry me anymore. Yes, I am young and HIV positive but I feel healthy every day and I have so many great friends and people supporting me,” Rose shares.
Currently, Rose is in secondary school at Mitondo Community Day Secondary School. She has been registered as one of the beneficiaries for the One Community school support program and will be receiving financial support to cover school fees and materials to help her continue her studies.
“I am very happy to be back in school and one day, I will become the first nurse in my community,” concludes a smiling and happy Rose.