Barbara Kemigisa walks with the gait of a young lady enjoying her life. When you hear her story, you understand why. While at campus, she was diagnosed with HIV and many in her shoes would have despaired and taken to self-pity. For Barbara, or Bara as she is addressed sometimes, this wobbling in self sympathy wasn’t going to happen. She made the immediate decision to carry on with her life, protect it by taking the prescribed medicine without fail and become an advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS. While on this course, she realized that the drugs she was taking could do more for her than saving her life. From this realization was born the excellent community based organization that she appropriately called Pill Power Uganda that she started in October 2016.
“Pill Power is a name that I chose to show the importance of ARVs to the lives of positives. I was grateful that they had put my life back on track, but also grateful that I could make a business out of them” she says with a smile.
In the beginning, Barbara used to collect empty ARV tins and together with her husband, stitched them together to come up with very artistic, and yet surprising items. Among these were flower vases, baby cribs, baby chimes, dustbins to mention but a few. Today, Pill Power Uganda has grown to have a team of over 30 people working in different places. Some of the tins she brands and sells as souvenirs to those who are with her in the fight towards “zero new HIV infections”.
Her works are good, durable and often fetch a handsome price. She works with her husband and two other friends, with whom they carefully hand-stitch every product they intend to sell. Her house is crowded with many of the finished items, and because it is her workstation, is always a beehive of activity.
“There is no machine work when assembling these tins. Every single product you see here has been done by hand, no matter how big it is. So yes, you can see how much work we have to put in” she adds as she shows her products.
Given the quality and durability of the various items, she has been finding regular market for them. Her vases for example can go up to 250,000 shillings each and there are always people to purchase them. She also mentions that she takes orders from customers, who may desire that she provides them something specifically crafted to their liking.
She is a true testimony that being HIV positive doesn’t take away one’s ability to be productive.
“Being HIV positive doesn’t take away my hands, or my ideas. I still have those and I endeavor to utilize myself. Besides, because I take my drugs, I have HIV but I don’t have AIDS, so I don’t suffer AIDS symptoms that would have dragged me down” she adds proudly.
She put up a spirited fight against the disease right from her senior six vacation* when she tested and got to know her status. She looks back at that stage with satisfaction.
“I used to freely talk about my status, through wearing branded T-Shirts and earrings, and swallowing my medicine in public places so that I could change people’s perception. Looking at me now, I am sure everyone understands that my message was true” she concludes.
For her zeal in fighting the disease, she took home the 2011 Young Achievers Award in the category of Leadership and Governance. She is a determined young lady, a mother of two, a go getter and an entrepreneur who knows no limit in pursuing the road to success.