I fell sick in May 2004, while I was a second year student in CPUT. I had TB, pneumonia, thrush and sores. I finally found the courage to test after being sick for months and the results were what I knew but didn’t want to face. By then my CD4 count was 15 and I weighed 35kgs. People talked, gossiped, judged and some thought my family was under a curse because both my sisters died due to AIDS-related illnesses. In January 2005, I started taking the ARV treatment. I came back to continue with my studies and later joined the HIV/AIDS support group on campus.
After a year my CD4 count was 854 and my weight was 62kgs. I join the HIV/AIDS Peer Educators Programme and began living openly and positively with my HIV status. I then developed lactic acidosis and lipodystrophy, which are both side effects, caused by ARVs and had to switch from D4T to AZT. I then realized that living positively is not only about having the right attitude, eating healthy food, exercise and having a strong support system but it’s about learning and knowing everything there is to know concerning the virus.
Later that year I became one of the MAP (Man As Partners) facilitators, a project funded by EngenderHealth where I facilitated workshops in university residences, dealing with the role men play towards the spread of HIV/AIDS, Building Healthy Relationships, Violence against Women and Children, Gender Equality and Values, HIV/AIDS Management and Stigma and Discrimination. I was also a Residential Student Assistant for the Student Housing Department and later in 2006, was voted Community Builder of the Year for De Beers Residence for the role I played in encouraging students to know their HIV status, promoting behavior change and adapting a healthy and positive lifestyle.
After completing my bachelor’s degree in Education in 2006, I was then appointed at CPUT as a Health Promoter (a project funded by DramAide) and at beginning of 2009 was appointed as a Peer Education Officer (a project funded by Engenderhealth). HIV/AIDS, counseling, treatment literacy and project management are amongst the several courses I’ve completed while working in CPUT. In all the years, I dedicated myself to serve the CPUT community and I did my job with passion and enthusiasm. I believe I’ve made a significant contribution in reducing the fear, misinformation and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and have played a huge role in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. I also gave care and support which included running and sustaining the HIV/AIDS support group, while promoted positive living to students and staff infected with HIV/AIDS and also helped them gain their confidence and to see HIV as another manageable disease. My other area of focus is motivational and public speaking and I have also facilitated numerous workshops in churches, communities, companies and schools.
My experiences from life taught me a lot of things and some of the lessons I learned was that life was not only about me and by my testimonies I can make a difference in people’s lives. I also learned that in life nothing is impossible and the challenges we face are the very same experiences which can turn our lives around and make us better people. I now know that God has given each and everyone of us a purpose in life and until we open our ears and listen to why God created us, life is meaningless because there’s nothing more fulfilling in life than knowing that you’re doing exactly what God called you to do.
It is every mother’s joy to know that they have given birth to a healthy baby. In March 2010, God also blessed me with a healthy baby boy and for that I’ll forever be grateful for giving me the opportunity and also trusting me to take care and give guidance to that adorable young man. When I look back in 2004 after being diagnosed, I never dreamed of becoming a person whom other people can trust and look up to, just as much as I never imagined myself as an academic, a responsible mother and a person who dedicates her life in helping others.
I bless God for hooking me up with the right people at the right time especially my whole family including my mom, my grandma, my son, my baby’s father, the kingdom children, my prayer buddies, my spiritual parents and the whole family of the Restoration Life Ministry. All my friends, the members of my support group, the peer educators and my colleagues for their unconditional love and support throughout the years, for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself and for grooming me to be the person I am today.