Betrayal is not a good thing, especially for people who are married and trust their partners to be honest with them. Unfortunately, we live in a society that is not open-minded and that’s why it’s hard for people to disclose their HIV/Aids statuses.
Siphiwe Ngamone (32), who works at Emalahleni FM as an HIV activist, was betrayed by her late husband as he didn’t disclose his status to her. She only found out the day he passed away that he was HIV positive. There was nothing she could do because it was already too late.
Born and raised in Witbank, Siphiwe’s life took a huge turn when her husband passed away in 2004. “It was all so sudden because he was not sick,” she explains, “but the biggest shock was discovering that he was HIV positive.”
Siphiwe says that her husband had gone for an HIV/Aids test and found out that he was positive. “But something deep within tells me that he had known all along before marrying me because his proposal was sudden. I remember sometime in 2002 he had shingles (a painful, blistering skin rash). I didn’t know what it all meant until later, when I was more knowledgeable about this virus. “I suspect that when he received the news he could not handle it because he was found unconscious, and died two days later. He poisoned himself so that he could die.”
The hospital phoned Siphiwe and informed her that her husband was found unconscious on the streets. He had gone alone to do the test. Siphiwe adds that she got married in 2002 because she was intensely in love with her man. “He was the most handsome man in the world. He was so mature and I didn’t think it was important to test for HIV/Aids before getting married. Aids was not something that worried me,” says Siphiwe. “I guess I was naïve and ignorant because all I wanted to do was get married to someone I loved.”
But Siphiwe started getting sick at the end of 2003. Doctors didn’t know what was wrong with her. “I was always complaining about my womb. I was sick all the time, developing ulcers and losing weight,” she says. A year after her husband’s passing, she began to lose more weight. But she waited for five years to go for a test because she was afraid that she might also be infected.
“When I found out that I was HIV positive, I couldn’t deal with the news. I became sicker and was bedridden for three months. I never went for counselling and was dealing with it on my own. I was scared to face reality. More than anything, I was upset and angry with my late husband. There are so many questions that still need to be answered. I’m now seeing a psychologist and the days are getting better.”
Siphiwe adds: “Since my husband died, for the longest time, it was hard to believe in and find love. There’s so much stigma around HIV/Aids. People are still ignorant and as soon as I would disclose my status to potential boyfriends, they would disappear.”
She says that some men find her disgusting; they think she’s dirty because she has the virus. “There was a time when I was praying hard for God to take me from this world, but after months of sadness and self-pity, I found inspiration in a man who’d been living with the virus for many years and he was still healthy and happy. I started telling myself that it’s not the end of the world and I could also live for a long time. I was not about to give up and die because of self-pity,” she says.
Although she admits that she has also lost many friends due to being HIV positive, the world is kind and has blessed her with loving friends from her support group. She decided that she had to move on from hurtful people and is grateful that she now has a loving boyfriend. “I’m dating someone who is HIV negative. I’m very open about my status and he is receptive to learning more about the virus,” Siphiwe says. She wants people to know that HIV is manageable.