Through Positive Eyes

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Chris JohannesburgChris

As a man, I have to be strong because sometimes my wife is stressed and I have to be there for her. Time and again, I can see that her mind is far away just thinking about this stigma against HIV. I try to comfort her.

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My wife is the one who first found out that she’s HIV-positive. We were separated and she was pregnant, so when she gave birth I wasn’t there. That’s when she told me that she was HIV-positive. After some time, I went to test, and that’s when I discovered that I was HIV-positive too.

I joined the Zimbabwean Army in 1995 and served in the Congo, where there were a lot of things happening, like beer drinking. Sometimes there were ladies to entertain us. Some guys were not using condoms, or sometimes a condom burst. When we withdrew from the Congo, the situation back home in Zimbabwe was not right at all. The money we were getting was not enough for us to survive. There was no food. We soldiers were sent at night to beat people for no apparent reason, even older people. So I decided to leave, to come and support my family here in South Africa.

Today, when I disclose my status, some of my friends don’t take me seriously. But at the end of the day, I go, “Ah! You think I was joking when I was telling you I’m HIV-positive. I’m serious. You have to go and test, my friend.” I try my level best to fight so that people aren’t scared to disclose. To me, disclosure is a way of showing people that there’s life even if you have HIV. To be with HIV does not mean that you are already dead. People say, “Ah, Chris is living. Let me also go and test.”

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Our church is called the Twelfth Apostle. We get baptized in a river the way Jesus was baptized—me and my wife and some of the church members. Most of the time, I don’t have time to go to church but my wife, she’s always going. On the day of baptism, I was very tired, but I said, “Oh, let me just sacrifice time so that we can go together as a family.”

I prefer to spend time with my family, but the way we live in Hillbrow now is terrible. In a single flat there will be four or five families—these are not healthy conditions. But I try to sacrifice for my family, because I am much happier to be with them, especially my daughter. We always play together, joke together, running up and down, jumping on the bed. Even those people who are HIV-negative, they have to admire me: “Even if Chris is HIV-positive, he’s always happy with his family.”

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