Cathrine Khumalo Phiri

I am a 50-year old, married woman who is living with HIV. Two of my children are also living with the virus. I was tested for HIV in 2000 – and the test came back positive. I was shocked and at first I did not tell anyone: because all I could see was death in my eyes.

When I started to take ARVs my CD4 count was at zero and I weighed 26kg, I was so sick. I thought my time would come soon – but I was wrong … Slowly I started to get better and now, 10-years later I am so happy to be alive and healthy. The issue of disclosing my status was the greatest challenge to me in the early days .

The worst part of it, was the my neighbors stigmatized whoever they thought was HIV-positive by labeling them as a prostitute . I just could not see the worth in disclosing my status in that situation. But, after periodic counselling sessions with my church pastor: I realized the importance of disclosing my status. And my first step was telling my brother. He helped me by sharing the news with my family and friends.

I was so lucky: my husband and family members were glad that I had told them – even though they were shocked and disturbed to some extent. I encouraged my husband to go and get tested so that we could plan our future together and to my own surprise – he tested negative. Hey: that was another challenge indeed. I questioned myself how was he going to react, how he would take then news.

But it was very fortunate that he continued to love me regardless to my status. I believe that this love was worthy to be given as a testimony – and so I spoke up at my church: thanking God for the way He had helped me through this hard time.

My involvement in the AALTZ Positive Hero support group (July 2012) has advantageously given me a platform from which to educate people. Through openly disclosing my status – I can help them see the benefits of living openly positive. If I can, you can and together we can be HEROES.

Cathrine is from Gweru Zimbabwe and is a member of the Nothando Positive Heroes Support Group and supports our partner organisation All About Love Trust Zimbabwe