The Truth about me

Date: January 1, 1970
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Since that night, I have never gone back to that club. That club was called Panther. It is no longer there, but it was our favourite place. It was hot! It was one of the best places to go, dance, drink, and party. It was where we got plenty of customers.

Truth and I were best friends. We slept in the same hostel, and did everything together. Like good friends. We used to go to Panther, get men, and “de-tooth” them. De-toothing is a term we used to describe the process of extracting money from men and running away with it.
We would play up to them sweetly, pretending to be their girlfriends, and then ask them to buy us dinner. They would give us cash to buy the meal at the counter, but we would run away with the cash instead of buying the food. I did this in order to have money to pay for my school fees.
One night, a friend came to our window at the hostel and asked us to go clubbing. We said ok, and of course went to Panther. When we got there, we saw K, a man we had de-toothed previously. He was in the club and we were so surprised and scared. He had already sent us a threatening message through a mutual friend.
We hid in a dark corner, waiting for K to leave.
When the club began to close, we decided it was safe to leave. It was around 2am and we decided to go back to our hostel. As we were going back, we realised two men were following us. We were not aware that K had paid some thugs to come after us. We were suspicious and started to walk faster. We were not sure if they were following us. When we turned a corner, we decided to run, and they started to chase us. We managed to hide, and we thought we were safe.
However, when we emerged, we didn’t realise they still followed. Truth was wearing jangles (high heels). They were new, and actually she was the only one who had them. When the man started to chase us, Truth could not run fast enough in her jangles. We ran, and she fell behind. I ran to the flowerbeds, heart pumping, and hid there.
From my flowerbeds, I saw this man force himself on Truth. He had with him a large sharp stone. He told her that if she moved, he would cut off her head. I witnessed the rape of my best friend and I could do nothing. I was afraid. He raped her, and when he was done, he stole her bag, her blouse, and also her jangles.
A few days later, Truth was not well. I was worried. After trying to take care of her, she was still not well. The man who had raped her had torn her inside. She was in pain. She stopped eating, she was crying often, and had fevers. She refused to go to the hospital even though she was scared that she had contracted a disease and fallen pregnant from this man.
After a few weeks, I finally convinced her to go the hospital. A female doctor saw us and told us where to go for an HIV-test.
At first, we were too scared to go in for testing. We were embarrassed and worried what people would think. We went to the clinic and pretended to be searching for work. They gave us some forms to fill out, and as we were filling them, we saw a line of women outside the hospital. We asked why they were there and learned they were there for counselling. We asked if we could join, and it was in these sessions that we became more aware of the virus. We finally got the courage to get an HIV-test.
I was the one to go and get the results. It took me two days to tell Truth that she was HIV-positive. By this time, Truth was already aware that she was expecting a baby from the man who raped her.
I think that Truth had contracted HIV long ago. When she learned of her status, she wanted to abort the baby. I learned from another friend that Truth had taken local medicines but they did not work. Truth had already had four abortions, and had almost died from two of them. I managed to convince a counsellor to come and talk to Truth.
The counsellor convinced Truth to be strong, eat well, and keep her baby. I really appreciated this counsellor because she would visit and check on Truth often.
During all this, I telephoned Truth’s mother in the village. Truth’s father had already chased Truth out of her home a few years ago. He had learned that Truth was going around with men and said, “I do not breed prostitutes!” But Truth’s mother had still supported her over the years, sending her money without her father knowing.
Truth’s mother came to visit and I watched Truth’s mother cry as she learned that Truth was pregnant. We never told her mother about that night.
The story of my friend Truth is one of my worst memories and experiences. And it is not even me who suffered the most. I consider myself as someone who used to be a ‘bad girl.”
Since that time, I never went back to Panther; I never went looking for money in this way again. Since then I have worked in different places to earn money for school. I began to speak out on behalf of my sisters and friends about the pressures and hardships we face. Through WONETHA, I hope to make this my life’s mission: supporting and speaking out for all human beings, especially those that are punished just for being born as girls.
Kyomya Macklean works with WONETHA in Kampala, Uganda. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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