Ugandan journalist shares near-death experience
Journalist Elvis Basudde talked about his life and near-death experiences as an HIV/AIDS patient and, for now, survivor. (Jim Kelly | The Media School)

Journalist Elvis Basudde talked about his life and near-death experiences as an HIV/AIDS patient and, for now, survivor. (Jim Kelly | The Media School)

At first glance, Elvis Basudde looks like a middle-aged Ugandan man. He’s sharply dressed, with perfectly pressed pants and a blue striped shirt. He has a warm smile and a slightly round middle. It’s impossible to tell that he is living with HIV.

Basudde spoke with us today about his personal experience with HIV/AIDS. He has experienced nearly every imaginable side effect, including stigma, opportunistic infection, full-blown AIDS and a death sentence from the doctor. This was back in 2002, when he was sent home from the hospital to die in his mother’s care.

At this time, he was also living with tuberculosis, an AIDS-related opportunistic infection. His wife quietly left him while he was still in the hospital, afraid and ashamed of his illness and the apparent reality of widowhood. She had previously miscarried due to his HIV.

Having wasted away into a skeleton, Basudde was lying in his deathbed when he was finally able to access antiretroviral treatment (ART). This stabilized his immune system, controlling his AIDS and returning him to a healthy state with manageable HIV.

In regaining his health, a phenomenon known as the Lazarus Syndrome, Basudde also remarried to an HIV-positive woman. Together they have three children, none of whom has HIV thanks to Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) efforts.

Basudde’s success in conquering his illness inspired him to be open about his status and to “give a face to HIV.” When he was well enough to return to work at the New Vision newspaper, he wanted to share his story of true agony to miraculous recovery with others so that they might learn from his personal experience. Having always been a skilled writer, Basudde took to the pen to participate in the universal fight against AIDS.

“Media is mightier than a gun,” he said.

Basudde’s bravery and support have made him into the healthy, inspiring man who spoke to us today. Since outing himself to over a million people, he has encouraged others with HIV to seek treatment and support. One positive woman who read his disclosure even called him to thank him for saving her life; she was contemplating suicide upon receiving her diagnosis, but his bravery and proactivity inspired her make the necessary decisions to regain her health and confidence.

“With good care, love and ARTs, you can enjoy a good life,” Basudde said at the end of his story.

After hearing him speak, I am hopeful. His cheerfulness is proof that someone with HIV is perfectly capable of living happily with proper treatment and support. With more inspiring words from people like Basudde, I am convinced that stigma can be eliminated and positive people can truly live shamelessly.