Before continuing – Read Part 1 & 2 first

Part 3 – So back to my journey living with HIV

When I received the news that I am HIV positive, I couldn’t find the words to describe the thoughts,the emotions that ran through my mind.

I was depressed and confused, broken into pieces that took me nearly ten years to pick up and put together again.

It was a decade during which I had tried to understand what that meant, trying to fight going on ARV treatment, scared to make a lifetime’s commitment to the medication.  10 long years of drug use and abuse.  A whole decade spent hanging out with my good friend “denial”.

As we all know denial is not a river in Egypt, it is a very serious condition. The only thing that the 2 had in common, is that both are very long.

And there it was, August 2010, with a CD4 count of 29, 18 kgs lost in less than 2 weeks (now i know why they used to call it the slim disease ).

I was so sick, i thought i was going to die. I couldn’t walk from the bedroom to the kitchen without wanting to pass out from exhaustion. I was lucky – my best friend’s mother took me in, and for three months she nursed me back to health.

Being that sick made me realise I had to make the commitment to life.  There was no more room for denial.  It was time to go onto ARV treatment, to give up my lifestyle and beloved business in Nelspruit and move back to JHB, to be with my friends.

(my family was there too – but i still couldn’t bring myself to tell them. I was afraid of the disappointment.

This part of my story touches upon 2 important themes: Grief and Stigma

Let us first look at Grief:

  • Any bad news of loss like unexpected death & loss of job & finding out you are HIV positive takes a person through the 5 stages of grief:
  • Denial &  Anger & Bargaining & Depression & Acceptance
  • The stages happen in no particular order, it can be a roller-coaster ride, back and forth between stages

I have spent 8 years being angry and being in denial, not dealing with my emotions. Being in denial could be very dangerous, during this time you are not accepting that you are HIV positive, not looking after yourself, not going onto medication. This could lead to infecting other people as well.The advise I can give, is be angry, be sad, it is ok, rather feel all of these emotions then dismissing them.

A quick look at HIV Stigma:

In today’s modern society HIV is seen as a manageable disease because you can live a long healthy life being on ARV treatment.

  • but the ancient grip of STIGMA still raises it’s ugly head everywhere in the world.
  • It’s time that we caught up with HIV science. We made unbelievable progress with treatment and the access to treatment especially in our country. I do believe that Stigma is the final battle against HIV & AIDS
  • We have to stop fuelling this epidemic with fear & silence, shame discrimination & judgment & bad attitude & ignorance.
  • It is bad enough that people are dying of aids, lets not die of ignorance
  • Our late president mandela said, education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. Through education we can assist in changing people’s perceptions and attitudes about HIV and people living with it.
  • People that are HIV positive often say that it’s more difficult to deal with the STIGMA then with the disease itself.

      to be continued……..

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