aids day

Anso Thom

Health-e News Service

VUYISEKA DUBULA is not hard to spot when she goes jogging in the mornings in Cape Town. She is among a group of runners who weave their way through city streets and along promenades decked out in bright bibs with “HIV Positive” proclaimed in huge, fat letters across their chests.

Her regular co-joggers include her younger brother Mahlubi Dubula, Tantaswa Ndlelana, Thanduxolo Mngqawa and Messi Qhaba.

The team are among a growing number of runners and walkers affiliated to the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), who have a number of ultra-marathons under their belt, including the big one – the Comrades.

For many years people living with HIV/Aids have been considered ill and not athletes, however this group is smashing this stereotype.

Most of the members of Runners/Walkers for Health were never runners and believed it was not something people with Aids should consider tackling.

Dubula, an internationally recognised activist and Secretary General of the TAC, said: “I was very stressed and I needed a distraction.” She said it had also been part of a plan to challenge fellow activist and Section27 head Mark Heywood, a Comrades veteran. “He always used to brag about running Comrades and he is older than us.

“First we completed a 21km and we thought, okay, let us try a marathon.”

Last year a number of them completed their first Comrades. “We could really see we made a big impact at Comrades. People came to us and exclaimed: ‘Yhu! You have HIV!’. They could not believe it. After Comrades you really feel there is nothing you cannot conquer.”

Dubula, who is continuously trying to find running shoes as new members join, hopes that they can find someone to train them properly.

And groups are starting up all over South Africa. “The Facebook page has more friends than the TAC group,” she said.

Cape Town and Johannesburg runners wishing to donate their old running shoes can contact the group via Facebook.