Journalists in Uganda have established a network of Journalists Living with HIV/AIDS (JLWHA), to collectively promote a vibrant media fully engaged in the response to HIV/AIDS, writes Elvis Basudde in The New Vision.

Over 8,000 people worldwide die of HIV/AIDS daily. UNAIDS estimates that there are now 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS, including 2.5million children.

The epidemic is increasing. During 2007, some 2.5million people were living with the virus. A total of 95% of these people live in developing nations.

It is against this background that scribes living with HIV/AIDS in the region established a network of Journalists Living with HIV/AIDS (JLWHA). The purpose is to collectively promote a vibrant media fully engaged in the response to HIV/AIDS.

The week-long meeting attracted journalists living with HIV/AIDS from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. They shared their experiences as victims of the AIDS scourge and described the devastating effect of the disease upon themselves.

The journalists resolved to put journalistic living with HIV/AIDS at the centre of the fight since they had a story to tell everyday of their lives.

They said they want to be at the forefront of the fight and publicly give testimonies regarding their status.

They also vowed to sensitise more journalists on issues of care, protection, support and treatment.

They also want to influence the media to publish more stories on the pandemic.

The scribes' love for their countries is evident in their publications and public declaration about their status.

Musengeri narrated how, in the beginning, he was in shock, angry, heartbroken and filled with grief and hopelessness. Eventually he learnt to accept the fact that he was HIV-positive and decided to take action.

Once he had accepted the truth, he expected everyone else to accept it. He was wrong. Instead, he received rejection, isolation and humiliation.

His employers withdrew his retainer fee and ordered him to hand over all the company property.

Today, Musengeri has taken to "preaching" to the whole district of Busia where he is a community mobiliser. He preaches compassion, dignity, courage, love, awareness of risks, the need for unity between people living with HIV/AIDS and the promise of hope.

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