Through Positive Eyes

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Zandile JohannesburgZandile

Sometimes I shift to a dark place inside me. That happens when I realize I have AIDS. I try not to focus on it, but at times the fear will grip me anyway.

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My story begins when I met my baby’s father. We were longtime friends, we dated for a short time, and before I knew it, I was pregnant. It wasn’t planned. And then he left me for his ex-girlfriend. When I found out that I was pregnant, the doctor advised me to do the tests that all pregnant women do. And everything was negative, except for HIV. They told me then that I was HIV-positive. I was 23.

My son is HIV-negative. His name is Loyiso, which means victory. Honestly, when I gave him the name I never thought of this, but now it has a significant meaning for me, because he’s a victor. He conquered HIV. I love him, because if it weren’t because I was pregnant, I wouldn’t have gotten tested. If not for him I wouldn’t be alive, because I wouldn’t know my status. I’ve been on treatment for almost four years now. And I’m healthy. Though I’m HIV-positive, I’m healthier than most other people who are HIV-negative. I never even get sick.

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I look at my son and thank him for bringing such light into my life. He has brought so much responsibility into my life too. I want to preserve my health so that I can see him grow, even to get married, and I want to see my grandchildren. He’s so handsome, my son.

My family is a bit shattered right now. My dad passed away recently so it’s just me and my two sisters and my mother. My older sister and I are close. She’s more like my second mom, though she’s only one year older than me. She doesn’t know what to do with me because she herself is a single parent to two children.

I had a very tough childhood. My parents never knew, but as a child I was molested by one of my father’s workers. So I’ve always had this fear that something bad would happen to me. The dark room in my photos symbolizes a place in my life that no one has been to. I am embarrassed to tell my mother about what happened. I mean, it’s been almost twenty years, and she still doesn’t know. And my father, I wish that I could have had the courage to tell him. It saddens me to think that he has passed on and he never knew. So the dark place in my photos represents a child in me who’s very scared, who went through a bad experience, at an early stage of life.

And the beautiful portraits…. I don’t think I’m beautiful. I mean I know that I’m created in God’s image, and I’m wonderfully and fearfully created. I can’t help it, but most of the time I take so much attention to how I look. It’s just me.

So there’s a me who’s so beautiful, who’s in love with life. And another, distant me, in my past, who is scared.

After I found out about my HIV status, I always hoped for a chance to share my story. I even saw myself doing this interview, taking pictures, or making videos. The power of positive thinking, it’s putting your faith to use, believing in what you want to receive as if it’s already there. For example, after I found out my HIV status I said, “You know what? Though I’m HIV-positive, I will never get sick. I won’t change. In fact, I will even be more beautiful. I will grow. I will take care of myself. I will make sure I don’t repeat all the wrongs I have done or have been done to me.” I closed that chapter of my life, and I’ve moved on.

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