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 Move! 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.”
It took some adjusting for him. At first, choosing to keep the news to himself but it weighed heavily on him.
“I had this phobia of being sick. I would be so scared to even get flu thinking it was HIV,” Simiso says. This shocking news came at a time where he was into partying like most 21-year-olds.
However, he had to make changes to how he was going to live his life. “I had to do things a little bit more differently. I had to date differently and have intercourse differently.” This meant that he had to put more thought and caution into every decision from what he ate to who he dated.
BREAKING THE SILENCE
He breathed a sigh of relief when months after his diagnosis, he was introduced to a man who had been living with HIV for about 20 years.
He says, “Meeting him changed my life. “He was married, had a beautiful wife, he drove a Merc. So, I was like well, if he can live with it, it means I can too.” Simiso’s life then changed after. He introduced him to other people who were infected and that made him feel like he is not alone and that he still possessed the potential to be everything he has wanted to be. “The disclosure for me was just to free myself,” he says.
This made it easy for him to navigate the dating scene too.
“Dating was a bit hard. So, it was better to let it out. If you date me, you know what you are getting from the word go. If you don’t want to date an HIV-positive person then you know definitely not to go for Simiso,” he says.
GRATEFUL FOR LIFE
He tells Move! that he just goes through challenges every other person faces.
“My life challenges are normal none of them are HIV related. It is normal stuff. I don’t get sick I have never been admitted in hospital,” he says.
“I recently turned 30 and honestly for me it’s a big deal because when I got diagnosed with HIV I didn’t think I would live this long or make it to 30 but with ARVs, taking care of myself and loving myself I will be and God willing, I will grow to be an old man,” he shared this in a Twitter post. Because he speaks so openly about his status, he finds himself having to counsel people online who just found out they are HIV-positive.
This, he says gives him a sense of purpose. When he is not working as an electrician in the chemical industry he spends his time trying to help others struggling with accepting their status and moving on with their lives.
“To those who are newly infected, know that first, it is going to be hard. You are going to be questioning a lot but I guarantee you, you are going to be okay. This challenge brought over your life will make you so much stronger,” he says.
He isn’t different from any other person, except that he takes ARVs and is more health conscious. “There is no substitute for ARVs. Drink water and watch what you eat,” he adds. Simiso also goes to the doctor twice a year to check his blood, CD4 count and internal organs. Things he says everyone else infected or not should be doing but are not.
“I am not materialistic. I don’t care much for money. What is most important to me is family, love, happiness and prosperity.”
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