YOUTH BLOG: Monaheng, Living a Positive Life
After knowing about my HIV status I was deeply troubled and could not accept my status. I blamed my late mother because she did not want to acknowledge her status and the result of that was that she did not access treatment and thus I got infected. I felt socially lonely thinking that everyone sees me.
Before my HIV status was confirmed, I was a jolly happy fellow who was very sociable and who had a lot of friends. I also did very well in school work- I was a brilliant student. After learning about my status my school deteriorated because I was depressed and did not love my life. I was afraid of discrimination in my school and I was afraid of interacting with my fellow school mates because I thought they were able to see that I am HIV positive. I knew that I had gotten the infection from my mother but it I was afraid to interact with other children lest I infect them- I started stigmatizing myself.
I received a lot of support from my family -my step mother and my father but even in that situation I still felt lonely because HIV was my enemy. I felt that I was not normal and could not adapt. I became rebellious at some point and was really pushing for people to do bad things to me and then I would say they are doing that because I am HIV positive…My family stood by me and offered me support.
I was so motivated after interacting with other positive young people in my Health facility. The only thing that motivated me was to see that I am not the only one infected and knowing that millions of other people are affected if not infected. I was a member of one of Sentebale’s network clubs (they provide psychosocial support for young people with HIV) and in that network I met other young children infected with HIV and that made it better and that also taught me that no-one can survive HIV without a supporter. We were supported in that club and that enriched my mind.
I believe that people should have knowledge and also feel supported. With the correct information young people can better understand their situation and be equipped with skills on how to manage HIV. I am now a Sentebale peer educator in my community and surrounding areas, meaning I choose to help other young people to learn about HIV, stay negative and safe and help to mobilise the community for testing. This role has made me advocate for the rights of people being discriminated against. I have organised groups of young people, both males and females, to attend to sessions and been able to provide them with information and set direction for them to follow a certain behaviour that will result in a positive effect in the community.
I am no longer ashamed of being called an HIV positive person because I feel I have survived all the storms. I am no longer blaming my mom- I think she lacked knowledge and understanding and maybe the environment was not conducive to let her talk and even access treatment that could have saved me from getting HIV.
I no longer feel discriminated in the society after knowing that HIV is not a death sentence but the beginning of a more positive life.