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.
Senzo says his brother, who was a teen, was asked to tell their grandmother who was at home at the time to go to the clinic immediately. “I just remember my grandmother and brother being emotional and crying when we were told I had HIV. I was nine – I didn’t know much.”
All the Grade 4 learner knew was that at school they would talk about the late Nkosi Johnson who died at 12 and was an HIV/Aids activist, he says.
“This year I turn 24 and honestly for me it’s a big deal because when I was infected with HIV, I didn’t think I would live this long, or make it to 24, yet 15 years on ARVs, taking care of myself and living and God willing, I will grow to be a positive old man,” Senzo expresses.
Senzo is the middle child, both his siblings are HIV-negative. His mother passed on before his diagnosis and his father passed on when he was really young.
“I remember it being a confusing time, with family trying to figure out how I contracted HIV,” he says. After heartbreak and tears, his grandmother remembered the day when Senzo returned home crying, saying he had injected himself with a syringe while playing with his friends in the dumpsite.
“I had no memory of this. My granny explained it to me. I was crying and in pain, but she didn’t think it was something so serious,” he adds.
Life for him didn’t stop, the support from his family kept him going. While in high school, Senzo decided on a random day to post on Facebook that he was HIV-positive. “I had to accept myself for who I really was,” he says.
He has never been ill, instead he is an advocate for ARVs. “I take one pill a day, that’s all. There is nothing different about my life other than the fact that I am HIV-positive,” he says. He admits, finding out at such a young age about HIV forced him to grow up very quickly and be cautious when making life decisions.
“When it comes to dating I am very honest. It would be unfair to keep such a thing from someone, you just need to be open, if it is meant to be it will be,” he says.
At the moment, his main focus is publishing his book, My Journey to Positiveness, which he is done writing. He also finds a sense of purpose from counselling people, especially his peers who are still imprisoned by the stigma of the disease and feeling unworthy and scared to live fully.