Through Positive Eyes

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Gladys JohannesburgGladys

He picked me up and said, “You've got to be strong. There's nothing wrong with being HIV-positive. You are still OK. You are going to be fine.” But I did not believe him. My head was very hot—chili hot. I remember this like it was yesterday.

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I found out about my status in 1996. I had gone for my antenatal, because I was expecting, and the doctor asked me, “Can we take a test?” I was like, “Yes, why not?” I went back to the doctor after two weeks and started laughing because I didn’t know why he was staring at me. In the end he said, “Ma’am, I would just like to tell you that you are positive.” To me it was like BOOM.

I immediately went out of the room. I remember slipping. I fell and the doctor was there. He picked me up and said, “You’ve got to be strong. There’s nothing wrong with being HIV-positive. You are still OK. You are going to be fine.” But I did not believe him. My head was very hot—chili hot. I remember this like it was yesterday.

My husband came in and he was told that I was positive. He said, “Not my wife! Maybe there’s a mistake somewhere.” But when I tested again, it still came back positive. I did the test seven times with different labs. “Where did I get it from? I’ve never cheated. Why me?” I could not understand.

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In 1996 there was no treatment in South Africa, nor in Zambia where I came from originally. So a lot of things were going through my head, because now I wasn’t thinking of myself. I was thinking of the baby that was inside of me. I was sure my baby was going to die. I knew about HIV and AIDS, but I didn’t know what can make the child negative or positive. I was very scared.

A lady I once knew was HIV-positive and looking after two children. One of the children, a girl, was very sickly, within a blink of dying. She couldn’t walk. She couldn’t go to school. But this lady always used to pray. I remember her saying, “God gave me this child as a gift. And there is no way she is going to leave me. Not now.”

Now the girl is very big. She’s OK. She’s perfect. And this woman has picked up the pieces of her life. Information and treatment helped them pull through. Did I tell you that my husband was in the military? They have an HIV project where we would go to get medication and to check our CD4 counts. I was one of the first ladies in the group to volunteer to try the drugs. I said, “I’m gonna do it.”

I used to be heartbroken. I used to cry very much. But now I call myself “the chosen one.” I feel like there is a reason why I am positive. Someone out there might point a finger at me, but I’m exactly the same as him or her. I’ve got blood in me, she’s got blood in her. She might be negative, but has she tested? She may not know her status. I know I am positive, and I’m going to live positively.

You know, when I separated from my husband I said, “I’m going to change everything about myself.” I loved Reggae ever since I was a small child. I loved Bob Marley. I loved his music. His words always comforted me very much. I’m a new person now. And you know what? I am proud to wear my colours. I love being a Rastafarian because, even if I’m positive, to my fellow brothers and sisters I’m negative. They love me and I love them.

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