Becoming an assertive woman

I was born in 1977, during the apartheid regime. This situation forced my parents to cross the border for the liberation struggle, when I was four months old. I was raised by my grandparents (my mother’s parents). Life was very difficult for me without parental love and comforts.

I was very intelligent in school and in 1994, I managed to complete my grade 10 (matriculation) at one of the secondary schools in the country. Life was very tough for me. Living with a lot of learners from different regions was very challenging for me, especially as I only had one pair of shoes. I didn’t have all I wanted at high school because of my living standard at home. I always looked different to others in school.

Peer pressure was too strong for me to handle, and eventually I gave myself to a man and lost my virginity at the age of 19. I didn’t have the power to negotiate about safer sex, though I knew all the risks involved. He was too powerful. I became his toy. The promised love became torture and daily abuse: physically, verbally and, much more, emotionally. Though I had my grandmother, who I regarded as my own mother, I could not tell her about  it.

Though I managed to get cash in my pocket every time I wanted to, I became pregnant. All my grandmother expected from me was to make her proud, things turned upside down for me the day I was told I was pregnant by a local clinic. Out of confusion, I decided to run away from home and be with this man. The abuse became so intense, but I could not go back home. Sex become a nightmare since it was always coercive. He started beating me day and night.

In 1997, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. She brought joy and happiness to my life despite the daily torture.

I was diagnosed with HIV in September 1999. I was powerless and too filled with fear to speak to anyone about my condition. Due to the abuse, I couldn’t access family planning. I fell pregnant again and was blessed with a second beautiful daughter in 2003, having taken part in a PMTCT [prevention of mother-to-child transmission] programme.

I started to think of my girls’ future. I approached  the local nurse for supportive counselling. She enrolled me in the HIV and AIDS programme for more training. After three months I managed to get a job at the local VCT [voluntary counselling and testing] centre.

During my work, I started to encourage other women to be assertive. I started a support group through a non-government organisation and started to interact with more people in my community. I regained my confidence, despite the virus in my blood stream.

I made a vow not to die of an HIV-related illness. For the past 13 years, I have been living with the virus in secrecy and last year I started antiretroviral treatment, through my GP, because of severe skin rashes. I started to eat healthily, and within six months my viral load was undetectable. My elder daughter, who is thirteen, is my treatment supporter, together with my medical aid counsellor.

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HIV & women

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Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.