Danielle Bernstein, producer of documentary film “Mothers of A Nation,” shares the incredible story of Florence Lubandi, an HIV-positive mother. This is Part One of three.
Florence Lubandi is a 58-year-old woman from the Jinja District of Uganda. She is a mother, a farmer and an educator of her community.
Florence Lumbandi describes what her life was like as a child and how the dynamics between men and women have changed in Uganda.
Florence contracted HIV over 15 years ago through a blood transfusion at Milago Hospital in Kampala after giving birth to her last son. He was the last of seven children, which she has raised and supported.
Before contracting HIV, Florence worked at a bank in Jinga, where she met her husband. In the late 80s, at the hieght of the HIV/AIDS epedemic in Uganda, many institutions required mandatory HIV testing. Florence and the other employees were not informed why they were being tested and the bank fired her when they discovered that she was HIV-positive.
Sadly, she was not told that she was HIV-positive, so she did not understand exactly why she was fired. Florence and her co-workers thought that it was the introduction of computers that cost them their jobs. Several months later she fell sick . Her husband’s family did not want her to get tested for HIV or seek treament because of the shame it would bring them. While on, what Florence thought was her deathbed, her daughter begged, “Mother, I will go with you, but you must be tested.” Florence says that if it wasn’t for her daughter she would not be alive today.
Florence stood up against her husband’s requests and decided to get help. She desperatly wanted to survive for the sake of her children and like many women in Uganda she was abandon by her husband and isolated from her community when she came forward about having HIV, and started receiving treatments and the local health clinic. Her children were no longer able to attend boarding schools in the city and they returned to rural, as Florence says, “peasant” life.
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Though she wanted to provide a better education for her kids she recognized that she was returning to her family roots. Her father was a farmer and a business man and while he was still alive he invited her back to his land to farm and live without the abuse of her husband’s family.
Little did Florence know, that these were the first steps toward a new, empowered leadership role in her community, eventually country. Her involvement at the health clinic would open up a world where her strength continues to make a difference in the lives of women living with HIV. Her father’s farm, now hers, has become a national example of sustainable living, small farm techniques, nutrition and women’s empowerment.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 on the ONE Blog.
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