Todani Jaqueline Makhuvha has been living with HIV for 11 years now and she is still going strong. The 28 -year old woman found out that she was HIV positive at the age of 17. It was in 2009 when she took her first HIV test at the local Dengenya Secondary School in Limpopo. Just like everyone else she was scared and thought that her life was over, and only thought the worst, but that was just the beginning of her life. Miss Makhuvha took time out to have a chat with Flair Magazine Correspondent Lethabo Matsebane.
The fact that she lived in a village where the majority of the people knew very little about HIV was more of a concern than anything to her. She feared being judged and discriminated against by those around her. She was more scared of the stigma around HIV.
After finding out that she was positive she decided to tell her teacher Mr Munyai, who helped her to have a better understanding of the disease. He made her feel at ease and he was very supportive to her.
“Mr Munyai even prayed for me and encouraged me to go to the clinic to start my treatment”, she says. That is how her journey started. She went to the Dzingani clinic where she met DrTshinanga, who helped with her treatment. That is how her ARV treatment started, as her CD4 count was less than 500 cells per cubic millimeter. She also had to take TB medication immediately for a year, as advised by the doctor, to prevent her getting Tuberculosis.
All was not smooth, as young as she was back then, she had to fit in with society. She could not talk about her HIV status with people around her because she was afraid of how they would look at her. To make matters worse, it was not easy for Jaqueline’s mother to accept her daughter’s HIV status, but thankfully her grandmother was there for her at all times.
I told my mother and she said: ‘Jaqueline your are lying’, until she saw me taking my medication. My mother is still having a hard time accepting me, as she is afraid of sharing the toilet with me and other things around the house.
Makhuvha says that other close family members were all supportive of her and that made it a bit easier. Everytime she got into a relationship and had to explain her status to the new partner, they would leave. At some point she had to stop talking about her status, and that is when she met the father of her son. She says she was taking her medication well, her viral load was low and her HIV was undetectable. She then fell pregnant and took altroiza pills and was able to give birth to a healthy baby boy. After giving birth Jaqueline went for an HIV test with the father of her son, and his result came back negative. However, after finding out that Jaqueline was positive they had to separate because he did not take the news well. “Just like everyone else he left”, Jaqueline says sadly. Her son is now 6 years old.
As time went by Jaqueline realised that she had to let other people know that being HIV positive does not mean one’s life is over. She believes that there are people who are scared more than her and they are facing bigger challenges than she does. Jaqueline wants other people to know that they are not alone. She started speaking out about her HIV status and encouraging young girls and boys to start using condoms at all times. She would also like those who are already living with HIV not to be scared of taking their medication and going for counselling as it will make their lives easier. “For society to accept you, you have to accept yourself first”, she says.
In 2018 Jaqueline met her current fiancé who fully accepted her when she told him about her status from the first day, and so they have been together ever since. Jaqueline’s fiance is negative and her life keeps getting even better, she says. Her future is bright; she is also using social media to tell her story and people love her, because they can relate to an ordinary person talking to them about HIV.
If I could do it when I was only 17 you can do it too, just be positive. Let us normalize knowing our statuses because we are protecting ourselves and those close to us. In August I will be going for my routine check up and that is my life and I love it. Let us please take our medication so that we can beat this thing.
Jaqueline is now doing a learnership with a company called Servest and has bigger dreams to better her life.
South Africa is one of the countries that are an epicentre of the HIV AIDS pandemic in Africa and the number keeps growing each and every year. There are still a lot of people dying because they are afraid of taking their medication or going to the clinics to get treatment because they live in rural areas. Some do not even understand the disease because they don’t have the facilities that can help them gain knowledge. Young girls and boys seems to think that the virus does not exist as they don’t protect themselves when engaging in sexual acts. That is why people like Jaqueline are needed in society so that they can teach those who are underprivileged and help save their lives.
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