Jacuzzi record to raise Aids awareness

2013-06-19 16:50

Knysna resident Andre van Zijl hopes to raise awareness of HIV/Aids by sitting in a jacuzzi at Fourways Mall in Johannesburg for a record 300 hours.

“You must be wrinkly dude,” says one passer-by while Goodness Simelane, of beauty salon Rain, massages his pruney feet today as they stick out of the water.

To keep warm and protect his skin, he wears a wetsuit all day, but he still gets chilly in the early hours of the morning when the centre’s doors are reopened.

Sleeping has been the most difficult part of his venture, which he started last Wednesday. He rests his head on his arm, but sometimes it slides into the water and he wakes up when his head hits the water.

In the quiet hours before dawn, he reflects on his past, which has included unusual HIV/Aids awareness endeavours, such as eating 150 pieces of sushi with chopsticks in 10 minutes, long-distance cycling trips, and climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town on roller skates.

He reads his favourite authors, Bill Bryson, Terry Pratchett, and Tom Sharpe, or thinks about his late mother Maria Albertus, whose picture is in a silver waterproof locket on a chain around his neck.

He is allowed one five-minute break every hour, and may accumulate some of that time for a shower and toilet break.

Money that he raises goes towards charities, such as Cotlands and Sparrows Nest.

He hands out a pamphlet containing information about the virus, its symptoms, how it can and cannot be transmitted, and how not to contract it.

“You don’t have to look for a coffin,” he says to people with HIV/Aids.

“Get busy, do something about it,” says Van Zijl. He has lived with the virus for 32 years.

He takes antiretroviral medication and hopes to soon convert to the new one-pill-a-day regime currently being rolled out.

He says people are welcome to come and talk to him about HIV/Aids and he can give talks to staff from companies in the centre, from his jacuzzi of course.

“HIV is not a death sentence,” he says.

He hopes to set his record at 2pm on Monday, June 24.

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