COMMEMORATING World Aids Day on Tuesday, NOKULUNGA NGOBESE spoke to Aids activist and motivational speaker Clement Fana Ntuli, who has been living with the virus for 20 years.
Ntuli (40), from Hanniville, was diagnosed with HIV in 1995. Despite challenges which almost led to his destruction, Ntuli has managed to turn trials into triumphs.
Being diagnosed with HIV at just 20, the then drama student at the University of KwaZulu- Natal got involved with the wrong crowd and was sentenced to nine years in prison for armed robbery in 1996.
“After discovering I was HIV positive, I thought it meant the end of the world as I had disappointed my family. It was difficult to accept and I ended up getting involved with the wrong crowd,” he said.
While in prison he taught other inmates drama and was involved in many academic programmes, which earned him an award for his contribution towards educational development.
In 2004 he started taking ARVs after his health deteriorated, but when he recovered the first thing that he did was to complete his BA honours degree in drama studies.
Prompted by the stigma of living with the virus he got involved in HIV-awareness campaigns around campus and worked as a campus unit HIV co-ordinator for nine months, but just when he thought he was on the road to recovery, once again his health, in 2009, deteriorated and he was admitted to hospital.
“On my sick bed one day, a nurse, who was assisting me, told me to accept Christ as my saviour, and since then I have been living through His grace and have never looked back,” said Ntuli.
In 2011 he started taking motivational speaking seriously and featured in a SABC reality show titled Now or Never, where he spoke about his “journey”.
He also wrote a book - Turning Trials into Triumphs - although it hasn’t been published because of a lack of funds.
“One thing I want people to know is that HIV should not stand between your dreams. There is so much you can achieve if you put your mind to it.
“When I was diagnosed I was in so much pain, but since I got over that stage, I am now using that pain to motivate others,” said Ntuli.
His dream is to see zero new infections especially among the youth he said.
“We are heading towards the festive season where people will be celebrating and when many become irresponsible. Young people should know that every right goes with a responsibility.
“They must celebrate with ‘pens down’, not ‘pants’ down.” Ntuli said there is still a long way to go for him as he hopes to be among the key people who play a critical role in helping to curb the virus in South Africa.
Ntuli gives advice:
• Test early as early detection leads to early treatment.
• Become knowledgeable about the virus, accept your status and do not dwell on the depression stage.
• Don’t rush to disclose, first build a thick skin within yourself and when you decide to disclose tell your immediate family and friends first.
• Avoid alcohol and drugs.
• Eat healthily, exercise and don’t default on your medication.
• Accept your status and move on.