#AIDS2016: ‘Finding out my status at 13 was not easy’
Being a teen is hard enough, but imagine discovering that you have been living with HIV since birth, says Bongani Radebe
I am 19 years old and live in Bohlokong, Bethlehem, in the Free State. I only knew that I was HIV positive at the age of 13. I was always given medication by my mom, but she would tell me that I was suffering from a heart disease, only for me to find out that I have been living with HIV.
Later that year, my mother decided to come clean and told me the truth after I asked her so many questions. She told me that I was at the right age and grown up enough to know.
She even told me that I got the infection from her.
I felt so sad and angry because I wanted to be like other children. My parents sat me down and told me never to tell anyone because people would begin to talk and children would not want to play with me. I agreed to do so, but deep down, I was so hurt. I had lots of questions in my mind: how will I live? Will I ever get a girlfriend? Would I tell her?
I was worried about getting a girlfriend, and meeting girls in the future because before knowing my status, I was into girls at school, flirting. Now I was afraid to even date one.
I even used to skip my medication, but now I always take my pills. I have learnt that it is important for me to take my medication. I wanted to tell people about my status, but I didn’t because I felt they would tease me and change towards me, but I thought I should just start off by telling my true and close friends and the right girl I would find in the future.
I feel comfortable talking to my close family and doctor about my situation, but I have not told my friends. They always ask me about the pills I take every day, but I would just lie.
I am very happy that my mother is so strong and very supportive through all this.
At the age of 19, I have gained self-confidence and learnt to live with my illness.
I even told my girlfriend, who is HIV negative, and she has stood by me till today.
* Interview by Bontle Motsoeneng