Personal herstories Lihles story

First part – Inkanyiso

My name is Lihle, (not real name). I chose not to use my real name for this story because I was scared of being victimized. Even though I’m not ashamed of the fact that I’m living with the virus. I’m not ready for the stares, and some people will over do the caring things to show that they do not have a problem with me being HIV positive.

I am a 28 year old lesbian woman, mother of an 8 year old boy who brings joy in my life every day.
I live in Khayelitsha with my brothers, I do technical support for a private company, and I studied information technology. I love writing, organizing event and just helping young kids to achieve their dreams.

At the moment I’m registering my project to teach young people from my community about different things like beading and talking about my experiences through life. With my partner’s help we managed to get some material, we also teach fine arts and hopefully in the long run we will be able to teach ceramics as well. However, the material is too expensive for us at the moment.

I’m very passionate about activism, I love happiness and I hate laziness.

I have overcome my fears about the virus and I made a decision that I will not die until my son is old enough to fend for himself and I hope to see my grandchildren. I am one of the luckiest people alive to have a partner that loves and supports me in all I do. She is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I can safely say she is the partner I’ve been looking for, she is compassionate and I love her to bits not just for being there for me but I love her for my heart, she is good for my soul.
If I believed in destiny I would say “she is my destiny” or “the one”. I sometimes feel like I have no right to have sex with her since she is negative, however, that’s something my counsellor and I are working on, but my biggest fear is what if something goes wrong with the protection we are using and I end up infecting her.

I am involved in a lot of activities which keep me going, and my family has been great. The thing that keeps me going is the decision I make every morning to forgive and be happy. So I have to make sure I smile and at least make the one person that keeps me going smiling.

Second part

Choosing to live has been a real challenging choice for me. Living has been really fruitful to say the least.

Growing up had its own challenges especially if one is a breadwinner at home. I applied for a life insurance policy. That I thought was a Gift to my son, my brothers and to my unemployed father, little did I know that I would be receiving a gift myself.

The process and thing I needed to do in order to get the policy were explained to me, which included taking several medical tests to confirm my health state. However, there was one test I had to do before the application was approved. I had to take an HIV/AIDS test.

People usually get scared when they have to test, but I wasn’t because I was so sure that this too will come out negative, so you can imagine my surprise when I was told otherwise.

Let me take you through my day.

I had tested the day before so I was going there to just get my results and go to court, well that was my plan anyway. When I got to the doctor’s office, the doctor asked me to sit down. I could see it in her face that she was the bearer of bad news.

She kept asking questions like:
“If you are HIV positive how would you take it?
Who would you tell? Is there a person you can talk to?”

For me that was stupid because I’ve been given bad news almost all my life and I already knew the results, so I asked her nicely to stop asking me stupid questions and just give me the results.

When she said that she is sorry but I was indeed HIV positive, it sounded different from what I thought it would sound like. I was not prepared for her to say it. Even though I knew what the result were.

She ripped my heart into pieces.

My world fell apart.

I wanted to drain all the blood from my body.

By the time I got home it was already late. In the morning there were no tears, but I began to think about who could have infected me. The blame game had begun in my head. The problem is I didn’t know who to blame from the people I was in an accident with, to people I’ve slept with. I wanted someone to account to this unfortunate incident. I sank in thoughts until my head started spinning.

Even though I wanted to cry as the pain was too much, there were no tears. I decided to buy a bottle of vodka and drank half of it and by that time tears and sobs came non-stop. I cried until I fell asleep. When I woke up, my friends were there, preparing food for me.

I was diagnosed with HIV last year  (2012 June/July). I am not sure about the month now. I then disclosed my status to my father, not that I required any assistance or support from him as he is not staying with me, I just felt like telling him.

No one judged me for my behavior. They were there for me because they cared and because of that I made a choice to live with the virus and that’s all. It is a virus that is in my blood nothing else; it does not define who I am not who I sleep with.

This is how I disclosed to my friends:

I sent an sms to one of my close friend, so I know what I told her. The others I think I told them during my drinking spree. Some I sent WhatsApp messages and even though some acted like they accepted me. I later realized that was not the case. My friends and I used to call and visit each other often but this time it was different, even if I was the one who did the visiting, they suddenly didn’t have time or they would just ignore me blatantly.

To all the lesbians out there who are living with the virus and feel there is no one to talk to because you’re scared of how your fellow lesbians will take your HIV status, you are not alone.
The key is to live a positive lifestyle.

My Girlfriend and I

I have just reconciled with my girlfriend, I wanted to be honest with her so that she can decide if she wants to stay with me or not. After telling her, she was very supportive and caring still, even though we encountered some challenges sexually, because I was scared to make love to her due to my status.

We had to go through the process together, learning more about HIV and our sex life, we went to Triangle Project (an LGBTI organization in Cape Town) and there we learned ways to protect each from contracting STI’s including protecting her from HIV.

We now have a healthy sex life. We’ve worked through our problems and honesty the open communication in our relationship has worked so far.

My Fears

If my CD4 count went down and I start taking medication what will happen?
However, I have plenty of time before I cross that bridge.

My attitude towards my status has really helped me and the people around me including my brothers help me not to give up.  Disclosing my status gave me strength to face the virus head on and for that I thank God for giving me such wonderful people in my life, people who halved my load. Thus far I haven’t faced any real challenges that I can’t deal with.

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*** Please note that the name of the author is reserved to protect her identity and privacy.