Through Positive Eyes

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Gugu JohannesburgGugu

When you find out your HIV status, you feel like you're drowning in water. You feel like no one can save you. But when you accept your status, everything becomes quite clear and you are able to accept yourself.

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I am a victim of rape. When I was raped, they shot me. They left me for dead. I lay in the hospital three months in a coma. Then when I woke up, the doctor found I was pregnant and he told me I have AIDS. This was 1994. My mom did not allow the doctor to do an abortion because it was late already. I was three months pregnant. I was 14 at the time.

When my daughter was nine she tested HIV-negative. I began helping other women whose children are HIV-positive, and pregnant women who are waiting for Nevirapine treatment to save their children. I was fighting because I know the pain a child goes through because of this virus. I wanted to make sure that children coming after mine got better medication, and that they would receive better care in the hospitals and clinics.

I have experienced a lot of stigma, including from my own family, though not from my mom. When I was not at home they would say to my child, “You and your mom, you’re going to die, because you have this disease.” Or “Don’t disclose, because you are destroying the name of the family.” Was I supposed to be quiet then? This was hard for me because I needed relief. There was something inside my heart—I was feeling guilt. That’s why I decided to disclose my status.

I want to tell other people who are HIV-positive to live their lives openly. Don’t care about anybody else. Just live your positive life. You will become stronger and stronger and stronger again.

Telling my daughter about my HIV status, and about her past, was hard for me. She began to ask me, “Mom, where is my father?,” because other children at school had fathers. I decided then to tell her. First, I went to buy something nice for her which I knew she would like. Then we sat down and talked. I told her, “There is something I want to tell you. I need you to understand. I need you then to support me, and I will support you.” And then I told her everything. “Don’t feel ashamed,” I said. “Don’t be scared of any person. Don’t be scared of anyone. Just make sure you live your life. Be proud.”

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At school one day, the teachers set the children an assignment, “Write something about heroes, like Mandela.” When I was checking my daughter’s books, I saw that she had written about me. I said, “Why do you write that I’m a hero, not Mandela or Jacob Zuma?” She said, “No. They are not my heroes. My hero is you. Whatever difficulty I have in my life, you are always there for me. You are my hero. I will never talk about some far away person. I want to talk about you.” That’s why I love her so much.

Sometimes I tell my daughter, “I will not die until you finish your school and your university. I know there will be the day I am supposed to go and die. We will wait until that day.” But I’m telling you, I pray to God, “Please, God, can you give that power and strength to make my child to grow before you call me?” Meanwhile, I will stay strong. I’m not the dying type.

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