Love stories: young, in love and living with HIV

Martha Clara Nakato from Kampala, Uganda is part of the READY movement of young people living with HIV. Happily in a relationship for over a year, the 22-year-old talks about the highs and lows of love for Valentine’s Day.

Martha Clara READY

“My boyfriend is negative and I am HIV positive, and sometimes it’s complicated. Sometimes we don’t understand each other and we argue but then we make up. If you don’t have love you don’t have life I think.

“We met early last year. He works for an organisation that deals with violence against women and girls and I met him at a campaign walk on the issue.

For me it was love at first sight, he is a very handsome guy, down to earth and God fearing. I liked him immediately but we didn’t swap numbers. A couple of days later he contacted me on Facebook, having searched for me on social media. I couldn’t believe it. This was the exact person I’d been attracted to.

“We talked for weeks on social media, I got to understand about him through this and he got to understand about me. Then we met officially, in person. Our first date was at a restaurant in town."

Sharing stories

“Because of my activism he already knew I was living with HIV. He told me he liked that I was so empowered and changing the lives of many people. When we met he told me he wanted to listen to my story about how I came to know I was living with HIV and how I have managed to live healthily and beautifully.

“I was worried the relationship would not work, that he wouldn’t love me for who I am but he always reassured me. I even remember us talking one time and him saying ‘look it’s 10 [pm], isn’t it time you took your medicine?’ and I remember thinking ‘wow, maybe I can be me and be comfortable around this person’.

Sometimes I doubt things and I ask him if he is sure he really wants to be with me. He’s told me: ‘I don’t love your HIV, I love you, I love who you are. HIV is not you and it’s not written on your face, it’s not your future.’ I’ve really got a lot of courage from that."

Confronting complications

“I have been in previous relationships where it has been too hard for someone to accept my status and love me, so finding someone who appreciates me for who I am is really special and a blessing.

“We are sexually active but consistently use condoms as we look forward to our future plans. I feel it’s my responsibility and duty to keep him safe and remaining HIV negative.

“Despite everything, sometimes I still feel like I’m a burden to him and that can complicate things, sometimes I just need some space. If you are positive and your partner is negative you can worry that they are only with you out of pity. Sometimes, inside of you, it is hard to believe it."

Finding courage

“I would say to other people who are living positively, if they are scared of getting into a relationship, they should never lose faith in the possibility of finding that special someone who will love them. Because love gives courage to know and appreciate who you are and the ability to let go of what hurts.

If someone doesn’t want you because of your status then move on. It’s all about knowing what you are worth, and this will boost your reactions to positive and negative experiences.

“There is only one thing in life you can never run from and that is love, because you can't see it coming and when it finally knocks at your door you won’t be able to shut it out. It may hurt sometimes, but always it will make you stronger.”

READY is a youth-led movement that mobilises young people globally to demand their right to a healthy life – whatever their circumstances, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

For more views on love, visit the READY Facebook page.

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