It affects everyone. Every person in South Africa knows someone who is infected or impacted by Aids.
Every 1 December, the world gets together to commemorate World Aids Day, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic and mourning those who have died of the disease.
In a letter to the nation, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged that this day is taking place under difficult conditions this year. In hailing the country's efforts, he also mentioned how more work needs to be done on HIV prevention
"The people of South Africa have come so far, endured so much and made such great progress in the fight against HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis."
"On this World AIDS Day, which is taking place in the shadow of another devastating pandemic, let us intensify both our resolve and our actions to confront and overcome AIDS once and for all," he wrote.
We look back at 7 inspirational stories from DRUM readers living with HIV over this year.
Nozibele “Nozi” Qamngana-Mayaba from Johannesburg, grew up in a very traditional family.
They were always told not to have sex before marriage. And after years of staying true to her “no sex before marriage” rule, she broke it when she met a man who promised marriage.
“I was told to wait for the right partner. So, all my life I had been waiting for that partner. And when the first person that came to me and proposed marriage, I thought that was it.”
She had no idea he was HIV-positive, she says and that she soon would be too.
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It is not common for young people especially men to publicly open up about being HIV-positive. Some fearing the stigma and others living in fear of ‘dying’ or their lives changing for the worst. Not 29-year-old Simiso Msomi, who is spreading positivity on social media about living with the virus.
At 21, the KwaZulu-Natal man found out he was HIV-positive and his perspective on life changed forever.
He tells us that he thought nothing of it when his then girlfriend who tested frequently advised him to go test as well.
“I went to a local clinic and I was in disbelief when I found out. I was like this can’t be me. I thought this was for old people. I left disappointed and confused.”
Her funky golden blonde hair shines in the sunlight, matching Pinky Tiro’s healthy glow. With a warm smile the Aids activist and community builder welcomes us to her new home in Florida, Joburg, where she and her family settled earlier this year.
“Welcome to my home. I know it is a bit quiet here, but I must say it is peaceful. I am still getting used to it,” she remarks. The suburban home is very different from Meadowlands, Soweto, where she lived for over three decades, operating a tavern with her husband.
It’s been 30 years since Pinky was diagnosed as HIV-positive and it’s something she celebrates daily. “There was a time I was made to think that I would die,” she says. “Doctors told me I had 30 years to live, but here I am today, 30 years later!”
She stands as a testament of love gone wrong. How a love affair of childhood sweethearts can come to an unfavourable end.
For Lerato Ngubane, the parts of her that she lost in an abusive engagement were scarring: three miscarriages, loss of hearing and being deliberately infected with HIV by her fiancé.
There was a time she didn’t see light at the end of the tunnel, but she has bounced back and penned her story to heal herself and others who have gone through the same.
This is her story.
What started as three toddlers playing at dumpsite in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, ended with then three-year-old Senzo Nkomo getting infected with HIV.
Senzo, who is now almost 24, shares his remarkable story .
“I believe my diagnosis was God’s way of directing me towards my purpose,” he says.
This wasn’t how he felt from the start, though, it took some time for him to be confident and brave enough to share his story openly.
“When I was nine years old, I was sick. I had a rash on my body so my older brother took me to local clinic where tests were done,” he recalls.
It’s been more than a decade since East London-born Loyiso Lindani has been living with HIV. She says living with the disease has saved her life because it made her make better life choices.
She admits that it took her some time to accept it and be open about her status as she initially believed that her days were numbered upon learning that she was HIV-positive.
The 35-year-old admits that she had no intention of checking her status until she fell pregnant in 2006.
“The honest truth is that I don’t know how I got infected with HIV because in all my life I had never been tested. I had always been scared to get tested and I had always held the mentality that if ever I had HIV I would see it on my hospital bed."
He’ll never forget the day life as he knew it changed forever. Thula Mkhize was young and in love and things between him and his girlfriend were getting serious.
The year was 2008 and Thula and his then sweetheart had spent the festive season with his family in Pietermaritzburg. Afterwards they went on a road trip to Polokwane in Limpopo and as they drove past a clinic Thula decided on a whim they should go for HIV tests. “I was simply curious,” he says.
“Nothing could prepare me for what lay ahead."
HIV-positive Thula Mkhize wants to change the way people view the disease. Here he and his twin, Ntokozo, share their story.