"lIFE ISN'T ALWAYS ABOUT YOUR WANTS AND NEEDS, BUT WHAT THE COMMUNITIES NEEDS - LIKE MORE HIV+ ROLE-MODELS"
"When i first found out I was HIV+ I got a lot of support from my family. My dad is a counselor so was incredibly supportive and my younger sister has been very encouraging with medicine and supporting my journey.
I knew it was important to build a support network so I tried to share my status with some people I thought I trusted and I was close to at the time. I realized they weren't great friends when they decided to stay away from me and spread rumors around about how I had become infected.
"Because of the stigma I faced from others I also started to self stigmatize. If I saw people laughing I would think it was about me, I withdrew from my friends, became very depressed, I used to cry a lot and and at my darkest moments even tried to kill myself.
Then one day when I was at college I was reunited with my cousin who had been living with HIV since birth. She is also blind as suffered with meningitis as a child. She was living so healthily and openly - talking about HIV had lightened the load for her.
"IN ORDER FOR YOU TO ACCEPT A SITUATION YOU NEED TO FORGIVE YOURSELF AND THEN OTHERS"
"She told me that sharing her status had inspired her to help others. She basically became my mentor. Having someone showing you they can live healthily and guide you on how to live healthily is so important.
So I started coming to TTF more and meeting more people living with HIV. One day I was approached about sharing my story on the radio. I decided that if I wanted to help others then this was the right avenue. So on 30th June 2013, I disclosed my status on the local radio station.
Then after that I started working with a local organisation called Family Health Trust, sharing my story in schools and raising awareness of HIV. A lot of the time when I share my story people cry, as they have lost family and friends due to HIV.
"Many people in rural communities don't believe HIV is real. And we try to break down some of the myths and misconceptions. Explaining about mother to child transmission, the importance of contraception when having sex and living your own life is important messaging. People are so concerned with what others think about them that they don't protect themselves through contraception or medication.
Now, before I share my status with friends, I ask them about what they know about HIV, how they would feel if they knew someone who was living with HIV. I try and share with them stories of people living healthily with HIV for a long time. And share the difference between HIV and AIDS. I try and make people think about life from someone else's point of view.
"LIVING WITH HIV YOU CAN OFTEN STIGMATIZE YOURSELF, REMOVING YOURSELF FROM RELATIONSHIPS BECAUSE OF FEAR, BUT WHEN YOU HAVE A MENTOR IT CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING."
"I am always trying to educate people on HIV . People dont believe having a healthy baby when you are HIV+ is possible or that you can have sex with your partner without infecting them with HIV. All of these things are wrong. Young people dont listen to older people when they talk about HIV but peer educating works as you are at the same level, you can impart knowledge and bring about change.
Life isnt about your wants and needs but what the community needs, which is more HIV+ role models for children and adolescents. People don't like talking about sex, but they want to experiment. If we allow the current taboos and beliefs to continue then more people will become infected.
"More people need to come forward and talk about HIV, and encourage young people to talk about HIV. We need to be addressing issues of younger girls having sex with older men and empowering them to use contraception.
We need more community leaders, and parents to acknowledge risky behaviors which are taking place and support their children in making the right decisions.
I often encourage my friends to get tested for HIV and will go with them to support them. Then if the test is positive I will encourage them to start treatment, seek support and when they are ready I encourage them to learn more about HIV and become peer mentors. To support more people in living healthily is the only way to eradicate HIV."