Stephen, age 59 / Kampala, Uganda


When I started working in 1984 as a doctor, I saw so many people whom I now know had AIDS, but we were never trained – it was not there during that time from ’79 up to ’84, when I went through the medical school. So, I worked – I’ve worked with hundreds, thousands. I’ve seen many of them, and possibly that’s how I even got infected.

And now for the last 10 years, I went into HIV medicine and I work with an HIV treatment center. Being a doctor makes it a bit tricky, because I know that as I grow older my immune system is going to grow older. Certainly it’s not as robust as it used to be. But this is an immune system which is also battling an infection, HIV. So, I know that it’s not going to protect me as well as it used to protect me.

Then also the issue of aging itself. I have my father who is now 86, my mother is 84, and I notice they are often depressed. I sometimes find my mother crying, and I ask her why, she says she doesn’t know, she just doesn’t feel well. Then the issue of forgetfulness. As I grow older, I have seen my mother, also – and even my father-in-law, he’s 100 now and doesn’t remember anything – he doesn’t remember even my wife’s name.

Sometimes it scares, it scares when I see people with dementia. There is now a new phenomenon called HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder. People forget literally everything. It gets me scared sometimes. Sometimes being a doctor doesn’t help much. But, on the other hand, forewarned, forearmed. I have been privileged that I’m able to plan, yeah? And I’ve told people, in case you see this, know this could have been happening.

But knowing about the disease sometimes is a disadvantage. It makes you fear. So, I’m wondering now, if this is old age, now combined with maybe HIV dementia, how will it be with me? Uh, but apart from getting worried, what I do with myself is try to write. I write. I keep a journal. I write it ‘cause people will know that at least I knew something, even when I’ve forgotten it, even if I forget my name. (Laughs)

And, um, one of the things that really excites me now is the fact that my only child, my daughter, has grown into an adult. So, even if I forget everything, even if I’m not as productive, I’m happy she will be able to look after herself, and that is the greatest thing that I think. So, I’m not worried.

On the other hand, aging, to me it’s more of a privilege, especially in Africa. Many of my compatriots, Ugandans, will not reach 60. The, average age of a Ugandan at death, a man, is about 50, 48 actually. For the women it’s 50. So, for me, I’m 61. I’ve had more than what a normal Ugandan would have.