Cyclist's HIV/Aids message of hope
Andre van Zijl is not one to let the grass grow under his feet.
The 62-year-old HIV/Aids activist, who is based in Knysna, is three-quarters of the way through a cycling crusade around southern Africa raising funds for local charities and calling in at as many schools as he can to spread the word about living with HIV/Aids.
He should know what he is talking about, as he is reckoned to be the human being who has lived the longest with HIV/Aids, which he was first diagnosed with in February 1984.
He set off from Cape Town on World Aids Day on December 1, 2010 on the first leg of his two-year bike journey, touring not only SA, but also visiting countries bordering SA. He returned to Cape Town a year later having raised R2.5 million for needy children, including those orphaned by HIV/Aids.
While on his travels, he has managed to ride in some of the top cycle road races in the region.
He is back on the road again for his second year of cycling around the southern African region and is hoping to take part in even more cycling events, as well as to visit all the countries that border SA. As usual, he will continue to spread his message of hope for those affected by HIV/Aids and resume his fundraising efforts. He hopes to double the amount this year.
He passed through Durban last week on his bicycle on his way from East London and Port Shepstone, and will continue his journey by cycling north via Richards Bay until he reaches Maputo, from where he will head west towards Pretoria, until he arrives back in Cape Town on December 16, where he is expecting to be met by that city's mayor, Patricia de Lille.
"I thought there was surely something I could do to make people more aware what it is like to be an HIV/Aids survivor. I had been through all the usual stages of denial, anger and finally acceptance after I was diagnosed with the disease and decided to find a cause - not a coffin!
"I decided to try and find a way to get around informing and motivating people about HIV/Aids, so I organised a few sponsors and got myself a bike and began my crusade."
He concentrates mainly on high schools, where he encourages young people to lead a healthy life, to keep fit and eat healthily, and to shun drugs and alcohol.