Kenneth Methula, who is 39 years old, lives in Durban, and is proud to be a Positive Hero. He first found out about Positive Heroes when he read about the organisation in Move! Magazine, which he picked up at the clinic he was attending. He immediately knew that he could have the power to be a positive role model, as he has experienced the stigma that surrounds HIV first hand, and knows how damaging it can be.
Kenneth first found out that he was HIV positive in 2007, when he fell sick. He was taken to hospital with a rash, TB, and was also suffering from excruciating stomach pains. One of the things that he was tested for was HIV, but when he found out, he felt that he was in good hands at the hospital, even though his life was in danger. He started taking ARVs, and slowly his health returned.
However, it was when Kenneth was discharged from the hospital that his problems really started. He returned home, and told his friends that his health problems had been due to the HIV virus. Whilst some of his friends were supportive, others laughed at him and told him that it was just bad luck that he had contracted the virus. When he tried to encourage his friends to go for an HIV test, they said they would only test if they were really sick like he had become.
Soon, Kenneth stopped talking about his condition. He felt very alone, and soon felt very depressed, and started to consider taking his life. He stole the gun of his friend, who was a policeman, intending to shoot himself, and went to the railway tracks to throw himself under a train, but he realised that he was too scared to die.
It was Kenneth’s friend, a pastor, who saved him. He told Kenneth, “it’s not a life sentence – you have to go on with your life.” Then Kenneth realised that he would not be beaten by HIV, and that he had to find a way to challenge perceptions about the disease.
Kenneth had always been a keen runner from his school days, and always felt that running was in his genes. He says of the sport, “running makes me strong. When I run, I take my stress and frustration out on the road. I know that it keeps me fit and healthy, and my health is good now.”
The 89km 2011 Comrades Ultra-Marathon will be his ninth race, and he has been part of the Heroes Ultra-Marathon Team for two years. He knows that sometimes people are amazed that he can have the strength to run so far and also have HIV, but he says that it’s not about the disease, but about how you view the challenge of running such a long distance.
The same can be said of living life with HIV. There may be challenges along the road, but with the right attitude they can be faced. Kenneth has two children, aged 14 and 13, who he hasn’t yet told about his status. However, he is hoping to be able to tell them soon.