HIV positive team gears up

2011-05-28 00:00

TAKING on the Comrades is a huge task for even the fittest people — but five of this year’s runners, who are living with HIV, are out to show that anything is possible.

Evelina Tshabalala, Kenneth Methula, Masiculele Gcabo, Willie Engelbrecht and Barbara Kingsley will be joining the thousands of runners at the start of this year’s race in Durban tomorrow.

Yesterday, the Positive Heroes team shared their stories and their positive attitude to life with beadworkers from the Valley of a Thousand Hills and staff at the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust (HACT) and Woza Moya craft initiative in Hillcrest.

The runners, who will be taking their anti-retrovival medication as they run, shared their personal stories with those present, stressing that anyone living with HIV is capable of leading healthy and fulfilling lives — and, if they’re crazy enough, to take on the world’s toughest ultra-marathon.

Tshabalala, the 45-year-old captain of the team, who has run the Comrades four times, the Two Oceans eight times and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus in Russia and Mount Aconcagua in Argentina — the highest peak on Earth outside of the Himalayas — said: “I want to prove to everyone that it’s possible to be living with HIV and still do physical activities. HIV does not stop you from doing the things that you love. People must know that living with HIV is not the end of life; life does not stop because you have HIV.”

Asked why he runs, Gcabo, who hails from Buntingville in the Eastern Cape — where he helped found a support group for people living with HIV, said: “Do not tell your brain ‘I am very sick and I can’t do anything’ because you are not disabled … you can’t think it [HIV] is the end of the life. It is why I want to show that even if you are HIV positive you can run 90 km as well.”

The team was welcomed to HACT with song and dance by the beadworkers, and then did a tour of the facility, which has its own hospice and fundraising initiatives.

They also took a seat in the Woza Moya “Dreams for Africa” chair, which was listed as one of the 10 most beautiful objects in South Africa at Design Indaba 2011.

After their visit to HACT, the team spoke to schoolchildren in grades six and seven at Sizimisele Combined School.

• For more information about Positive Heroes, visit http://positiveheroes.org.za

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