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,” she tells Move!.
Her fears of the disease were further worsened by people around her dying of it. She says ignorance was her bliss because knowing would stress her.
Her lifestyle before she got pregnant was careless because she was looking for love in all the wrong places. She dated men who were not good for her because she was desperate to be loved.
“I threw myself at any man who showed me any kind of affection, even if it was not genuine. Most of the relationships were toxic and they were more about sex than about love, but I needed affection so badly that I took it in whatever form that it came in. I was in bad relationships where I dated taxi drivers and sugar daddies in my desperation,” she shares.
“I knew there was HIV yet I was not going out of my way to ensure that I at least had protected sex to ensure that I at least decreased my chances of getting infected,” she adds.
She says when she fell pregnant, she had no choice but to face her biggest fear – testing for HIV. What motivated her the most was the fact that she was doing it for her unborn baby in an effort to prevent mother to child transmission.
This was a turning point in her life. “I was five months pregnant when I found out that I was living with HIV. It felt like he threw a bucket of ice over me. I was shocked but I pretended to be strong, I didn’t want to come out of that room crying to avoid the other patients suspecting that I had been given positive HIV results. I thought I was going to die three months after giving birth to my baby,” she shares.
The doctor ensured her that she’s still got a long life ahead of her. Loyiso didn’t believe him and was mentally preparing for her demise.
During this time, she had great support from her friends despite being left to be a single mom by her baby daddy and not seeing eye-to-eye with her family.
“Life was extremely difficult at the time, I was a new mom and I was doing it alone, the father of my child had broken up with me and I was in bad terms with family so the only support I had was from my friends who showed me love and told me that I would live long and HIV would not be the end of me,” she says.
She says she knew she had to make some lifestyle changes. Her CD4 cell count meant at the time that she was not eligible for ARVs.
“Even though I didn’t really believe that I would live long especially after I was diagnosed with HIV. It was a blessing that I had a full-time job because I was able to afford to buy myself immune boosters which was all I could do at the time since I didn’t qualify for ARVs,” she explains.
Getting back to dating proved to be a challenge now that she knew her status. One incident was a guy who nearly killed her for not disclosing her status to him. He found out about it through one of Loyiso’s friends.
“He was beyond angry and in that rage, all I could do was stand there as he told the entire neighborhood that I was a B!tch with AIDS. We had slept together and because it was a one-night stand, I saw no need to disclose something so intricate and personal to him,” she explains.
She says it was all confusing for her as to who to disclose to or not as she didn’t know how long a guy was going to stick around to share such a personal matter.
Her status has also had an effect on her friends as their boyfriends leave them after they discover that Loyiso is living with HIV.
Loyiso says the negative effects of her status on her friends’ relationships is hurting because in a heat of a moment one friend told her that they were tired of her and pretending was wearing thin.
“The logical step for me was to disclose my status on social media so that whomsoever wanted to stigmatise or judge me could do so, the world would know that I, Loyiso Lindani, am living with HIV and the world would have an opportunity to hate or love me but one thing was certain, I was not going to be pretended,” she says.
Posting on social media surprised her as the reception was pleasantly positive. Now people lean on her shoulder for advice on various issues which include living with HIV, getting tested, being in a relationship, anxiety, depression and being suicidal just to mention a few.
The mother-of-one has now documented her journey in an autobiography titled How HIV Saved My Life.
“The book goes into much more detail about my life, the trials and odds that I have overcome to become the positive inspired person that I am. I wrote it to not only give others hope but to let them know that they are not alone.
Not many are brave enough to write a book or tell their stories in any form although many would love to, most lack the courage for various reasons and my voice is their voice,” she concludes.