Come out and conquer HIV and Aids

2010-02-16 10:24

WHEN Mbulelo Dyasi came face to face with HIV, he didn’t run: he

faced it head-on.

Now the former Eastern Cape Aids Council ambassador urges other

HIV-positive people, especially men, to come forward and stand up to the


Roadshows, campaigns, awareness-raising … they’re only going to

work once HIV-positive people, especially males, come out and reveal their

status, said Dyasi.

Once they do this, he said, the virus can be conquered. The spread

can stop. The support can strengthen. And treatment can begin.

Born and raised in Ilitha near the tiny town of Berlin in the

Eastern Cape, Mbulelo showed an interest in gender issues from as early as high

school. With dreams of a career in international peace politics, Mbulelo

naturally veered towards workshops and discussions on human rights and equality.

He found himself at workshops organised by non-profit international

women’s organisation Masimanyane on domestic violence, human rights, gender

equality and HIV/Aids at school, and continued training with Masimanyane after


In 2003, he contracted the HI virus, and returned to the

Masimanyane headquarters in East London for counselling and advice.

“Masimanyane supported me unconditionally,” he says. “The

organisation started to use me after I disclosed my status, because it was

involved in many exciting programmes regarding HIV.

“I am now the face of HIV in the province. I remarried, and my wife

Chumisa – who is also HIV-positive – and I work together in the fight against

Aids in the Eastern Cape.”

Surrounded by support, he says, he faced HIV head-on, never

suffering much, and never identifying himself by his status. “I am Mbulelo – I

am not Aids,” he says.

This is why, he explains, he was nominated for the International

Visitors Programme in the United States.

“In the US there are people who have been living with the virus for

20 years – people on treatment, antiretrovirals, and know how to live with HIV

longer. I wanted to know how to live longer.

“What surprised me is that people there, who are living with HIV

are leaders. They are university professors, they are people leading HIV

programmes – unlike here where so many HIV-positive people just attend meetings

and listen to talks. There, they are involved. They are making a difference,

taking the lead.”

While the US was more advanced in terms of HIV treatment and

counselling, Mbulelo found his home province to be ahead when it came to

mobilising people, and in multi-sectoral responses and approaches.

Today, Mbulelo leads by example by pledging publicly “not to infect

others”, hoping others will follow.

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