Terresa Frankenberg


When I tell people about my HIV status, it’s never to elicit sympathy, but to educate. You see, I strongly believe that knowledge is power and the more we know about the disease the less scary it is and more importantly, less people have to die.

When I first discovered my status more than seven years ago, I was totally devastated; the shame of having to tell my family was more than anybody should have to deal with. I had been in a relationship for over two years and never for a moment thought that it would end this way, unfortunately we can only be accountable for our own behaviour and not that of the people around us. The person who infected me denied it emphatically and refused to have blood tests to prove differently, the process involved in taking the matter further would have been too painful and would have exposed my family to possible media coverage as it would have been consider a “land mark” case. Proving one person’s word against another is never easy especially in these circumstances and I did not want to put my children or family through any more trauma. So he walked away.

I was truly blessed, and my family all rallied around and we sat down together and decided on the next course of action. I immediately went for a second opinion and further blood tests which enable the doctors to establish more or less how long you have been infected and mostly importantly your viral load (the amount of virus per 100ml of blood) and your CD4 count (the bodies fighting cells). The terminology, quickly become something that you learn to understand because this is how you are able to manage the disease. As long as your CD4 count is always higher that the viral load the situation can be controlled.

I believe that so many people in our country are dying of AIDS due to several reasons:

• They do not know that they are infected
• They are not eating properly and looking after their bodies
• They do not know enough about how the HIV virus actually works
• They are not practicing safe sex or abstinence

It is important, as an HIV+ person to remember that this disease knows no boundaries and it is not a punishment from God. For the most part I carry on with life in a very real way, like most other people. I am a single mother raising two sons aged 21 and 23, my support structure is small and I rely heavily on them all to keep me strong emotionally as well as physically (this is not always an easy task!). Losing my dad a month after testing positive was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with, his love was unconditional and I needed him more at that time than ever before in my life. The lesson was hard and it took lots of time spent on my knees for me to find peace, learn forgiveness, acceptance and love.

I hope that this gives you a tiny bit of insight into my world – not much different to yours?