Landisa: I have HIV and life is great

2019-12-06 09:13
Andile Gidana

Andile Gidana

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It was on October 5, 2003 when I was diagnosed with HIV. I was scared and thought death was on my doorstep. My then spouse was also living with HIV which made it easy for me to accept mine. He was able to console me and showed me that there was more to life than HIV because of his journey with the virus.

He was my source of support and I was able to accept that my life had changed. Those days, having HIV was a taboo; it seemed people assumed that one was sleeping around. I had sleepless nights and kept on wondering who might have infected me and how I got it. Many thoughts were going through my mind.

It was quite difficult to disclose my status to family and friends because I felt ashamed and thought I'd be judged. The difficulty was I had told them I was gay in the past and now… my HIV status. It was not easy for them to accept my sexuality because they didn't understand how I became gay and believed that I could be cured.

By accepting my status and through the support I received from my then spouse and my doctor, I gradually grew the courage to tell my family and friends and while they were sad, they vowed to support me throughout.

After this I wrote an article that was published in the Sunday Times, because I felt that my story had to be heard and that the world needed to know that HIV was not a death sentence. I think I took a big step by so doing because it was just a few weeks after finding out about my status. 

I also became an active trustee for an organisation that we gave birth to, Openly Positive, and joined Positive Heroes where I shared my story of positive living with HIV. I went through a process of changing my lifestyle, I had to look after myself in terms of what I eat, exercise and had to visit my doctor every six months for check-ups. The check-ups were to determine how I was coping with the virus.

This exercise changed my life drastically because I really had to ensure that I look after myself. Life didn't stop though, I had to continue living because I knew I did not want to die. I told myself that there are many dreams that I would like to achieve.

My doctor advised that my CD4 count was still high and that I was not ready to take antiretrovirals. In the past, before you could take the ARV treatment, the your CD4 count had to be 200 at most. It was through this newly found courage that I was able to talk about my status openly to friends and people around me. It became easier to share and it was like my life has changed. I accepted myself and I started to lead a "normal" life with HIV.

In 2009 I met my current partner, who is also living with HIV. He had started with ARVs while I was still in the monitoring stage. There were times where he shared how the medication made him feel due to its side effects.

On April 1, 2013 I started taking ARVs because my immune system was not coping on its own anymore. Even though I was sceptical to start, I knew that the benefit of taking my medication outweighed the side effects that I would experience.

It's been 16 years now and I have never felt so good about myself and my well-being. I am on ARV medication and have an undetectable HIV. 

I have graduated with a degree in Public Management and am pursuing a M-Tech Degree in Public Relations Management and Communication.

Life is awesome, thank goodness to my current spouse, my family, the Openly Positive Trust trustees and my then spouse for the great support. I am living life as if HIV doesn't matter, I take my treatment every night, which is one pill per night. I am super thrilled to have had the kind of support, I don't think I would have done it on my own.

What I'd like to tell the public out there is that HIV, especially these days, shouldn't be a death sentence. There's more to life than HIV and it shouldn't shape who we are.

Read more on:    arv treatment  |  hiv aids  |  landisa
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