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By Linda Mbongwa
"I'm seriously ill, I don't know how much time I have left."
This is what SABC weatherman Jabu "Okumhlophe" Sithole wanted his fans and all South Africans to know, so that they could at least take the necessary measures to protect themselves from HIV and Aids.
The 34-year-old revealed his status at a media conference at the Ghetto Ruff Records offices in Parktown North, Johannesburg, on Saturday.
Accompanied by his wife, Annah, 31, musician and actor Bonginkosi "Zola" Dlamini and representatives from Ghetto Ruff Records, Sithole said he had learnt of his status in October last year following a severe headache and an ear infection.
"I was shocked. We phoned relatives, everyone. They were also shocked and some cried," said the ailing Sithole.
Mrs Sithole, who is expecting her third child, said she was the first to find out her HIV status in December last year while doing a prenatal check-up.
"At the time, Jabu had developed flu. The doctor suggested that I take the test. The day the results came out was the day Jabu got really sick, and he was in a coma for three days," she said.
Jabu Sithole has since developed TB and will be starting antiretroviral treatment on Tuesday.
"It has been difficult. At first Jabu kept asking me if I would leave him because of the virus. I reassured him that I would take care of him: I'm stronger," said Mrs Sithole.
Although the couple were adamant that their public disclosure would help others to deal with the stigma surrounding the disease, it has brought some difficulties. For example, schoolmates of Mrs Sithole's 11-year-old daughter from a previous relationship have been asking her about newspaper reports regarding the couple's HIV status.
"One child brought one of the newspapers to school and asked my child about the article written in it. We've since told the principal about the incident," Mrs Sithole said.
The couple said they had been receiving support from both sides of the family, with the mothers-in-law having moved in with them.
Dlamini said that disclosing one's status sent a message that there were no heroes when it came to HIV and Aids. "For Jabu to have the courage to talk about this sends a message that Aids is there and we need to deal with it."
Lance Stehr, of Ghetto Ruff Records, agreed that Sithole's gesture was a brave one and that disclosing one's HIV status made it easier to deal with it.
"We can't be hiding things. Sithole's public disclosure will help to show that we have a problem as a nation. It's better for people to come out and face it," said Stehr.
Mpumi Phillips, of Ghetto Ruff, who is also the family's spokesperson, said the company would open a trust fund to help the Sitholes. She added that Sithole's album was due to be released on Monday and all proceeds would go towards looking after the couple.
Although Sithole constantly complained during the media briefing of being tired and sometimes seemed disoriented, he managed to crack jokes and elicit laughs with his popular punchline, "Okumhlophe".