Xolane wrote this blog after attending the RIATT-ESA sponsored Children and Youth Conference at the 2017 Psychosocial Forum.
My name is Xolane or the Black Spade as my friends call me. I am from Swaziland. I was born with HIV and have been on treatment for 11 years now.
Learning that I was HIV positive left me hurt and broken, with little self-esteem− for years.
I felt like the world was burying me alive. I was crushed and confused. At that time, I thought HIV= death. After a while, I became numb. I started to give up on life. Suicide was a real option.
But my mother had other ideas. She took me for counselling. At first I felt like it was a waste of time because I couldn't benefit anything from it. But despite being a busy single parent, she was with me all the way. She was my light in the dark days and her prayers kept me going. That made me stronger.
With time, I regained my strength and my self-esteem.
The clinic I was attending invited me to join a support group. We were only four members.
Associating with other young people living with HIV gave me the courage I needed to stand tall and unshaken by the thought of HIV. We became a family that loved, cared and protected each other and made sure we all stayed future-minded.
Frankly, I can now say growing-up with HIV has made me a strong and brave young man. Accepting my status was the first and biggest step I took on this journey. Truly it has not been easy. A positive mind-set must come from within. No one can dictate it to you.
After this, my next big and equally difficult task was to get my family, friends, and the nation to know about my status and accept me for who I am.
But today, I can stand tall and tell whole of the rainbow nation about my status.
However, the issue of stigma and discrimination in my country is still a major problem.
Our nation still does not want to accept people living with HIV. They refer us as the dying people, and treat us differently. Too many people are still rejected for disclosing. They end up emotionally hurt and alone. Others choose not to disclose but find themselves living in fear that someone will find out− leading them to default on their medication, which raises their viral load.
I wish our nation could love, care, and protect us like everyone else because we are not different. We are not dying, but are living with HIV. We are young and still have a bright future ahead of us. We also want to stop the spread of HIV. We want the next generation to be HIV-free but that can only happen if we get the support we need today.
I appeal to organisations and the government to work together to educate the nation about HIV and stigma and discrimination, so that everyone is informed. Please, do not let us fall off the map. We need you.
I am a young black man proudly living with HIV. My friends call me the Black Spade.
LET'S STAND TOGETHER AND FIGHT STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION. LET’S MAKE OUR COUNTRY HIV FREE IN THE NEXT GENERATION.