Nokubonga Yawa

My name is Nokubonga Yawa. I live in Khayelitsha with my mom, my two brothers and my daughter. I was born in Umtata, but moved to Cape Town when I was a baby. My mom is an unemployed single parent and couldn’t afford to send us to school, so somebody from our church looked after me and paid for my education.

I come from a family of five. When I was young, I watched my mother struggle to make ends meet. She worked hard to make sure that we didn’t go to bed on empty stomachs.

As I grew older, I knew that I had to help my mother support my siblings. Like any other teenager, I also wanted beautiful clothes and cosmetics. When I was 15, I met a 28-year-old man and we became friends. I saw that he was financially stable and supportive, and I fell in love with him. He became my boyfriend.

My boyfriend made sure that I had everything, especially the things that my mother could not afford. I ended up sleeping with him as a way of showing him how much I appreciated his help.

Even though I had missed my periods, I was not worried. It was my mother who insisted that I go to the clinic and check if I was pregnant. I went to the clinic to get tested and I found out that I was pregnant with Sinaye, my little girl who is now six years old. I was doing Grade 7 at the time, and being pregnant at that age was a disaster. The news came as a shock. I had to drop out of school.

It was a difficult time for me because I had disappointed my mother and brothers. My mother and brothers had accepted that I was pregnant and they were supportive. I was even thinking of going back to school after giving birth to my baby. But then came the bad news, I was told that I had HIV.

I can still remember that day clearly. It was a sunny Saturday morning. I went to the clinic for a check-up, and I was asked to do some tests, and I tested positive for HIV. When the nurse told me that I had HIV, I thought she was joking. She kept on talking and comforting me. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but her lips were moving.

Yes, it was hard but I told myself that the only way I could survive was to do the right thing. I took ARVs and AZT pills (pills which prevent the baby from getting HIV) and changed my lifestyle.

I couldn’t finish my studies, so I decided to learn more about HIV and Aids. I joined a support group called Siyabonga, which teaches young women about issues related to the disease. The group also helps women to earn a living through craftwork. From then on, I told myself that I would make my condition work for me. I started volunteering at local clinics, including the Michael Maphongwane Clinic.

Being HIV-positive is a blessing in disguise for me. I have met amazing people through the projects that I am working on. I feel that it is my duty to teach young people about HIV and Aids and help to save their lives.

Being part of Siyanqoba – Beat It has taught me a lot about myself and my capabilities. The show requires me to do research and teach communities about living a healthy life.

I am glad that I am now able to put a smile on my mother’s face. She is proud of me. I never thought that one day, I would be able to rise again.

Please send my word to the young people of this world; tell them that I love and respect them. Every day I see the power and the spirit of change and it is the youth who can make the difference. In order for us to achieve all of our potential, we need to listen and learn from other people and not be ignorant about HIV. It is here and we need to deal with it. It starts with us.  It depends on us to succeed.

Black, white, pink or red … together we can make a difference. It doesn’t matter where you’re from if we share the same spirit and goal. “HOLA BAFETHU IT STARTS WITH US”.