10 May 2013

South Africa: I Refuse to Let HIV Stop Me From Dreaming

Bonginkosi Vincent Buthelezi is a 17-year old high school pupil. He shares the story of how he became HIV-positive.

I was born into a warm, loving family with a very strict mom.

My friends almost destroyed my life. I was a laughing stock among my friends and I was called a postman, because my brother used to send me to his different girlfriends, changing them like his underwear.

I was spoiled by many of the ladies, telling me I was handsome and sweet. Because I wanted to keep my friends, and to prove I was not postman man but a grown man, I started dating girls right and left. It was easy dating. At the age of 14 I was having sex like nobody's business. I slept out often and told my mom I was going to church. Everyone at my house was trusting.

Then I started getting sick and losing weight.

My sister took me to the nearest clinic for an HIV test but I hesitated at first. After being counselled I accepted the test and I was diagnosed with HIV. I knew crying was my last option. I just sat and looked around the room and then asked the counsellor “where to from here?”.

He told me to return the next day for a CD4 count to find out whether I was ready for ARVs. After the results came back I was given folic acid, Bactrim and vitamin tablets to take every day to boost my system and protect my body from illness.

A week later, I decided to disclose my HIV status to my mom because I knew she would be my biggest support, and my sister was as well. Their support is my reason to dream each day and hope for the best future, nothing less. I still attend school. Without my education there is no bright future.

I haven't told my friends about my HIV status but in the near future I will, for now it's my secret. I'm not in a relationship for now.

Girls are still crazy about this Shangaan boy. Yes, I may be a 17-year old young man but I learned to grow faster than I expected, because it's not easy to cope with everything that comes with the virus. Life continues if you continue living it. Don't die for anyone - just live it to the fullest.

If someone discriminates again you because you have HIV, let them go, because it shows they never cared about you in the first place.

Stigma and discrimination in my community are still a big challenge. I don't want my name to be counted among those people who passed on, so I would rather learn more about stigma and discrimination.

I'm not blaming anyone for my HIV status but my biggest regret is allowing my friends to influence me and I regret even having such friends in my life. My biggest lesson is choosing friends carefully, to never forget where you come from, and to know where you are going.

I have a bright future ahead of me. I just have to keep dreaming and stay healthy. When life holds you down, don't stay there long, but get up and live life to the fullest. -OurHealth/Health-e News Service.

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