'The day I found out I was HIV-positive'

One man describes his journey from outright denial to whole-hearted acceptance after learning his HIV status.

16 March 2015
by Candice Verwey

Joe* was diagnosed with HIV on the 26th of February 2009. He was 28 years old at the time.

“I had just found out that my application for a job in Dubai was successful, but a health test was required before starting. I went to New Start free testing centre for the health test. The results of the test revealed that I was HIV-positive.

“The 26th to the 28th February were the longest, toughest days of my life. I went into denial, and told myself they must have lied about my blood results. I thought it could not happen to me because I'm smart and well educated. At that time I thought HIV was something that only happened to drug addicts and uneducated people from poverty-stricken communities.

“At that point I packed my bags and travelled from Zimbabwe to Cape Town. I went for blood tests again in Cape Town to confirm the diagnosis, but the results where the same as the first. Despite this, I continued to live in denial.

I faced up to my battle

“I came out of denial in October 2012. I had imprisoned myself for two years and eight months. Stigma is an enemy to people who are struggling with different health conditions. We all have to fight stigma!”

Today Joe has made peace with his status and is open about it with the people who are in his life.

“When people find out I am HIV-positive, they generally react in the following ways: They start distancing themselves and their families from me – if we used to greet with handshakes or hugs they now greet with hand waves or facial expressions.

"Alternatively, they exaggerate their happiness when they see me, trying to treat me as more special than others, or acting very differently to how they had behaved around me before. Some people go into advice mode, giving their opinions/tips on how I should live a healthy life. Others treat me as they would treat someone who is not HIV-positive. They see me as a human being, the same as everyone else.

“I am currently on anti-retroviral therapy (ARV). When I started treatment my CD4 count was 169, now it’s around 500. To stay healthy I cycle, run, read the Bible, and fellowship with other Christians. I pray to God Almighty, thanking Him for my salvation, and the fact that I am still alive today.”

The message that Joe would like to pass on to other people with HIV is that it’s not a death sentence, it’s just a wake-up call.

“Live as healthily as possible, stay away from alcohol, drugs, smoking, unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, and – if you're not married – abstain from sex.”

*Not his real name.

How Clicks Clinics can help you

Did you know Clicks offers HIV testing and counselling at their clinics? To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or book online at Clicks Clinics online

HIV home test kits are also available for purchase in-store.

Shop online at Clicks.co.za for condoms 

Don't be caught unawares – rather stock up on condoms here so that you can ensure you're practising safe sex at all times.

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

Read More: HIV/AIDS Super Section