“I am because we are and this why I am who are I am”
I’m a young women living with HIV, I came to the knowledge of my status in April 2001. I was young and enjoying life like any other young person not expecting this news. I consider my self lucky in way because I tested while I was still healthy not sick at all but was just curious to know, but also consider my self unfortunate. It was unfortunate that this happened at the time when treatment was dream for a poor Philippic girl because I rely on my small nutrition booklet as my guide to Positive living except only in Khayelitsha ARV’s were starting to be available. I then decided I’m going to start an new life. A life of internal isolation, guilt and some denial. My mother and my sisters were very supportive although they could not believe that their dearest sister, who is still healthy had a virus in her blood. The expectation was for me to cry when breaking the news, I could not cry because I wanted them the see me strong. We were a poor family and relied on income from my parents’ informal employment. My father was a taxi driver, my mother was domestic worker, my great mother was plantation farm worker. My life changed when I met a young women who was the same age as myself who was feeling a similar pinch in her shoes as me. Nomandla Yako was a Treatment Action Campaign Educator at Site B clinic and she took me to the TAC offices and that was the day my life changed.
I joined the TAC in 2001 June and that day I became part of a bigger family of young women and men living with HIV. They were empowered by naming the symptoms of Opportunistic Infections and what is needed to treat them. My life weight and burden became lighter by the day. I decided to come to the office everyday as many days as I could. We started a TAC branch in Samora as a support system for other people. I felt I needed to share with other people who were feeling lonely and had lost hope.
I am now part of a bigger struggle. The struggle is not one there are many struggles within the bigger struggle. Reducing women’s and children’s vulnerability to HIV is one of the struggles that has become the ongoing struggles within the struggle. Today I am half happy on the new Department of health’s new Guidelines because the ongoing separation of the child from the mother by thinking that it best to prevent infection to children only forgetting that the mother is also important in a child’s life.
I changed my life totally in 2004 I grew my dreadlocks shaved my relaxed hair, and went back to school started antiretrovirals because I was planning to have a child in 2006 because I know that a healthy mother results in a healthy child. I am very healthy with a CD 4 count of 460 and viral load has been undetectable for 5 years. My child is HIV negative. I became staff member for TAC since 2002 till currently. I have moved from being a receptionist to a national position.
Early testing can save your life
Take your ARV’s everyday
A healthy mother = healthy child
Good food for everyone