‘I found out about my HIV pos­i­tive sta­tus ac­ci­den­tally’

Observer on Saturday - - News - Gce­bile Ndlovu’s story

The early days of HIV were darks days. There was very lit­tle in­for­ma­tion on the dis­ease, so it hit hard on the coun­try, killing thou­sands of peo­ple in gain­ful em­ploy­ment. As the AIDS-re­lated death toll rose, many com­pa­nies (in­clud­ing health re­lated and life in­sur­ance providers) in­tro­duced and en­forced strin­gent rules (some of which might I add, were in vi­o­la­tion of ba­sic hu­man rights prin­ci­ples) that forced peo­ple to un­know­ingly take an HIV test – and they ob­vi­ously used the re­sult as a ba­sis for re­ject­ing or ac­cept­ing ap­pli­cants.

It was these very strin­gent poli­cies that led to my ac­ci­den­tally find­ing out about my HIV sta­tus. I may not state what ex­actly I had un­der­gone the health ex­am­i­na­tion for, but I know it in­cluded tak­ing a blood test. In the be­gin­ning, I kept the in­for­ma­tion to my­self and then within my fam­ily (which was very sup­port­ive) as I qui­etly went about my ev­ery­day busi­ness. Af­ter about four years of se­cretly liv­ing with HIV, in a pe­riod when stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion was rife, I de­cided that I did not want to con­tinue to be one of those, that peo­ple spec­u­lated and gos­siped about as to whether I was on treat­ment or liv­ing with HIV.

This was the best de­ci­sion I made. Declar­ing my sta­tus and openly liv­ing with HIV brought of a lot of bur­den that came with non-dis­clo­sure, off my shoul­ders. I al­ready had a won­der­ful sup­port sys­tem in the fam­ily, with friends and some work col­leagues, but would be greatly dis­turbed on hear­ing peo­ple talk­ing about HIV - a part of me would won­der if they were re­fer­ring to me.

Dis­clos­ing my HIV pos­i­tive sta­tus gave me back the power as with ev­ery­thing in the open, peo­ple had noth­ing to gos­sip about. In ad­di­tion, my dis­clo­sure led to a burn­ing de­sire to learn more about the dis­ease and how to live pos­i­tively. From then, I nur­tured pos­i­tive net­works with peo­ple from across the globe, es­pe­cially women liv­ing with HIV (some of whom are not liv­ing with HIV openly) which I learn from as well as men­tor oth­ers.

In the years lead­ing to the present, I have dealt with many chal­lenges that come with liv­ing with HIV. In De­cem­ber 2012, I was di­ag­nosed with menin­gi­tis, which left a part of my right side not quite func­tional. With the help of my doc­tor, I have been able to re­gain some of the func­tions on that part. I have learnt the value of trust­ing and work­ing with my physi­cian, which en­ables us to to­gether look af­ter my health. This al­lows for pe­ri­odic ap­point­ments and check-ups that lead to a timely change of med­i­ca­tions when nec­es­sary.

In the end, though I learnt of my HIV pos­i­tive sta­tus ac­ci­den­tally, it turned out well.

I re­alise now that my jour­ney liv­ing with HIV could have been so dif­fer­ent. I know for cer­tain, that an an­nual HIV test should be a part of any­one’s life­style.

I urge men (as heads of fam­i­lies) to take the lead and show the way for their fam­i­lies. Let men take an HIV test with their spouses and part­ners, and fur­ther re­ceive the re­sults to­gether. As in the ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem where a child has to start in Grade One, liv­ing a healthy life to­day de­mands that you start with the very ba­sic and the Grade One of a healthy life­style is an HIV test. Know your HIV sta­tus… It will be Okay!

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