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Thembi Ngubane

August 3, 2008

By Erika Nelson

Listen to Audio (37 min.)

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This podcast is a part of the series This Positive Life. To subscribe to this series, click here.

Thembi Ngubane

About Thembi
Age: 23
Home: South Africa
Diagnosed: 2002

When she tested HIV positive in 2002 at the age of 16, Thembi Ngubane of South Africa scarcely had an idea what HIV meant. Now 23, she is one of the foremost HIV activists on the planet. She received worldwide recognition in 2006, when National Public Radio featured a stunning audio diary she kept in 2004 and 2005. Here at the XVII International AIDS Conference, she has been a near-ubiquitous presence, giving speeches and even co-chairing a major session on the state of the HIV pandemic. And did we mention that she has a 3-year-old, HIV-negative daughter? We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit down with Thembi and hear her incredible story.

Can we start by hearing the story of how you found out that you were positive?

I tested HIV positive in 2002. I was 16. The reason why I went for an HIV test was because my ex-boyfriend at that time had gotten sick in the past few months, and then he died. No one would tell me why he died. No one would tell me what he had. I felt it was my responsibility to actually find out for myself if he did have HIV or AIDS. The only thing to do, was for me to go for an HIV test.

You didn't know for sure that he died of an AIDS-related illness?

I didn't know for sure, but when I saw him when he was sick I could see the symptoms. At school they used to tell us that if a person is sick, if he has HIV, you could see the symptoms when the immune system is very weak. The person would lose hair; the person would get so thin. He had some of the symptoms, but I was not sure because I was not very well-informed about HIV.

What happened when you went to get tested?

It was scary, because of my being healthy and looking healthy, yet suspecting that I might be HIV positive. It didn't seem real. Also, because I wanted to prevent so many things: I didn't want to die, I didn't want to get sick, and I didn't want people to know. It was a matter of going and finding out for myself and keeping it to myself.

When I was told that I was HIV positive, I could not believe them. I kept on asking them, "Why do I have HIV? Why do I still look healthy? Why am I not thin? Why am I not sick? Why am I not feeling sick? I feel normal and I look normal. Why do I have HIV?"

It was very hard for me to accept, but the reality was there. It was either accept it and take responsibility, or ignore the fact that I had HIV.

When you went to get tested, did you go all alone?

Yes. I went alone. It was not planned. I didn't plan it. I was just curious, because at that time in Khayelitsha it was 2002 and they just opened a loveLife youth center. I wanted a reason to go inside, but I didn't want people to see me. Because if people saw me go into loveLife, they would think that I'm having sex.

It was very hard for me to go there. Since I was alone, I thought, "Why don't I just sneak into loveLife?" So, I was sneaking around in there and just taking a tour. It was too much for me, because I could see condoms. I was like, "Oh man, condoms -- in front of these people? There are old people here."

I felt like maybe people here understand. I thought, "Let me ask if they can do an HIV test." Lucky for me, I met someone that I knew who has HIV and he was a counselor.

I asked him if I could have an HIV test. He asked, "Why do you want to have an HIV test?" I said, "At school they tell us that if you ever, ever, ever have sex, you must have an HIV test. So I thought, why not?" [Laughs.] But I was covering the whole thing up!

loveLife is a clinic or a center? What is it like?

loveLife is a youth center. It does many different things: you go for birth control; you go for checkups for STDs [sexually transmitted diseases]; you go for HIV tests and they then refer you to the nearest clinic; you go there for counseling; and you go there for sex education.

What happened when you got the news? Who told you and what happened?

The counselor told me. He first explained the procedure and everything. I was just sitting there, just rolling my eyes and thinking, "Well, you can say whatever. I don't look sick, so I'm not."

So poof! The news was "You are HIV positive." I argued with him for 10 minutes. I argued with that guy. I mean, I argued with that guy. I really wanted an explanation. I ended up believing, no, I'm not sick. These people are just trying to scare me. What the hell? I don't look sick. These people are just trying to scare me.

But as soon as I got out of the center, I was starting to hit reality. I was facing people, and I felt like everyone could see that I was HIV positive. I felt like I was losing weight at that moment. I felt like I was going to die tomorrow. Everything just came so quickly. It was like an earthquake!

I panicked. In my panic, I felt I had to tell someone. [Laughs.] Sometimes I think back and I'm like, I did a stupid thing: I have just gotten tested and I'm confused, and then, poof, I go and tell my boyfriend. But I thought he was in danger. I thought, "If I really am HIV positive and my ex-boyfriend didn't tell me he had HIV, and now I have HIV, what about Melikhaya? I owe it to him. I have to go and warn him. I have to go and tell him. He must go for an HIV test to see what's going on."

There I was. I went to him. Lucky for me, we met on the way. I said, "I'm coming from loveLife."

He was like, "loveLife? What are you doing in loveLife?" Because people who go to loveLife are people who have STDs and who go for birth control.

I said, "No, I just went for an HIV test."

"And?" he asked me.

"They say I'm positive."

Then he laughed it off. He said, "Come on. You don't look sick. You know what a person who has HIV looks like. You are not that sick, I mean come on. They are wrong, you know? They're just trying to scare you!"

That was it. I felt like it's not a big deal. Why should I make it a big deal? I just went home. I must put it behind me. I must forget about it. I went home and I didn't tell anyone up until I returned to Melikhaya's place to find out that he had told everyone in the house. He just turned over and was like, "Did she just tell me that she has HIV? I mean, HIV causes AIDS. Oh my God! She's going to die and I'm going to die!"

There he was telling his mother that both of us are going to die because I tested HIV positive. It was a drama of the year! It was a drama. They all wanted to kill me, if I can say so, because at that time no one understood. I also didn't understand. I wasn't even sure if I was going to make it. I was just defending myself. I'm not going to die. I'm going to go to the clinic. I'm going to get something. There must be something that can be done. But I was only saying those words just to stop them from saying all those things about me.

Did Melikhaya go and get tested at that point?

After this drama with me being HIV positive, his family actually called me and they separated us. They said we must break up. We broke off, but I said to him, "I don't mind our relationship ending, because I also have a choice. If I wanted to date someone that has AIDS and I don't have AIDS, I would also think twice. But you don't even know whether you are HIV positive. The only thing that you can do for yourself, and for me as a favor, is to go and have an HIV test."

I don't care about our relationship. We can break up because HIV is not going away from me. We broke off and he went for an HIV test. Luckily, he tested HIV negative. He later came to the support group and I was so pissed because the support group is for people that have HIV. He was coming from school and he came with all these pamphlets. I didn't know what he was doing there, because he probably didn't have HIV and yet there he was. I thought that maybe he had come here to rub it in.

He comes, and he's like, "Thembi, I just went for an HIV test and I tested HIV negative. I'm sorry I didn't understand at first. I panicked. I've read about HIV. I went to counseling and I understand that you are not going to die."

I had all this information that he was picking up the whole week at the libraries and putting one and one together. He asked for me back and I was like, okay. But I said, "You know, you're negative and I'm positive. It's not going to work, but let's try." [Laughs.] So we tried. But he told me that he was in the window period. They say that he's HIV negative, but he must go back again to see because the virus sometimes gets into your blood and hides.

He went again after three months and he was HIV positive. His family said, "You were HIV negative and you went back to her! You went back to her to take the virus! You come back, and now look at you, you are sick!" No one understood. But we understood because we know how HIV works. We understood that he had HIV maybe before I even met him.

You can never tell, you know. You never know who has it and who hasn't. You never even know how long you have had it up until you go for an HIV test. It was a matter of, "I don't blame you, Thembi. I don't blame myself, because I was in a relationship before you. It's not like just because you tested HIV positive before me that I'm going to blame you. It's not like that."

Ever since then, we tried to convince our families and educate them. My family didn't have a problem at all. My mother is Christian. It's interesting, because my mother is Christian and my grandmother is a traditional healer. I come from a really interesting family., and I am strictly science. I'm strictly science, yet my background is half religious and half pseudo science.

My family was very supportive. My grandmother didn't try anything, she just said, "You know what? HIV/AIDS doesn't have a cure, but you can take your treatment. I'm not going to do any remedies for you because you must not take them. The only thing that you have to do is to go to the clinic."

My grandmother also said, "You have to pray to God. That's the only thing you have to do. You have to pray to God that everything will be all right."

I had support from my family and I took Melikhaya under my wing. We tried to convince his family, tried to educate his mother. At the end of the day, we couldn't fight [about this anymore] and now we are one big, strong family. We have Onwabo and everyone is happy. [Onwabo is Thembi's 3-year-old daughter.]

That's right! You got pregnant after you tested positive.

Yes.

Can you tell me a little bit about that?

[Laughs.]

That is also one of the decisions that sometimes you think, "Maybe I shouldn't have done it. But anyway, it happened."

Just before I tested HIV positive, just like any young woman, I always wanted to have a family. There was a break point where I first [said,] "This HIV has taken everything from me. I won't be able to get married. Who would marry me?"

All these questions were popping up until Melikhaya and I got through some talking and were like, I want to have a kid, because everyone was screaming this stupid stuff in my head, like, "The kid is going to get sick. The kid is going to get infected. You're going to die and the kid is going to be an orphan. Maybe the kid will be a strange kid because you won't be there and the father won't be there. Maybe the family won't treat the bride when you are not there."

All of these things were coming to me, and they made me feel like I'm useless. This HIV thing really does kill you, kill your love, or kill your dreams. The only thing I have to do now is sit like this and wait to die. Just wait until I die.

There was a moment when I felt like, you know what, since I was going to a support group the support group really helped me. I realized no one can be me. I'm only me. I can only make decisions for myself. If I choose that this HIV is going to an obstacle in my life, that's what it's going to be. But if I choose, I'm going to fight it. I'm going to live my life the way I wanted to live it before I had HIV. It's just going to get along with that. That's how it's going to happen.

I was like, okay, I'm going to push it. I'm still young. I don't want to die. I don't want to just be forgotten: "Thembi died of AIDS." That's all I had. Nothing behind, you know.

I didn't do it for a selfish reason, to have a baby to love me, or something like a legacy to leave behind. I did it because I wanted someone to love for myself. I wanted to love him. I wanted to give him everything. I wanted her to love me back. I don't know how to put it. That's all I wanted to do.

There was a chance, I was told, that the baby might be HIV-positive. I prayed to God that the baby -- I know I didn't do anything wrong. The baby won't be HIV-positive. God will not punish me like that. I had to believe. I said, Melikhaya, I believe. Even if the baby is HIV-positive, there is hope out there. The baby might be HIV-positive, but who knows? The cure can come out anyway, anytime. It's not like it's the end of the world and we have to wait and say, "I'm going to have a baby when the cure comes." That's not going to happen. This is life. This is reality. This is about me. It's not about HIV. It's all about me, what I want in life, and what I believe in.

We talked to my doctor. Lucky for my daughter, he was very understanding. He took me through the procedure and explained to me what exactly is going to happen when I get pregnant. He should check my CD4 count, check my viral load, check my CD4 count, check my viral load.

Everything just meshed there and then. It meshed. Everything just meshed. I was put on nevirapine (Viramune); I was taken off efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin). I was put on another medication. [inaudible] CD4 count was [inaudible] too high. It was perfectly in health and I was also perfectly in health.

I said I'm not going to breastfeed. There are likely chances -- I got on nevirapine and my baby got AZT. I knew when I give birth, on that day, before they could even come back with the results, I already told my family, no, Onwabo is going to come out negative. I knew it.

The second test, everyone was like, "Oh my God, Thembi, we hope that you didn't breastfeed him. We hope that you were not careless with him." I said, no, don't worry.

Onwabo was HIV-negative, and now she's crazy! [Laughs.]

She's three, right? So --

Yes. She is so crazy now! She's crazy. But I'm happy. I wouldn't say that I wish -- of course I wish I didn't have HIV, but I love my life now. I wish I didn't have it. If they would say, what's the one thing that you want? I would say, you know what? I want to live a positive, normal life as long as I can.

"I feel lucky. I know that everything happens for a reason. God put me in this situation."

I wouldn't say I want to be negative, because I know that's not going to happen. But if I would still have a chance to go back and change, I would change everything.

I feel lucky. I know that everything happens for a reason. God put me in this situation. I'm in this situation for a reason, but a lot of people died just in front of me. I'm still here. Why? I ask myself. Yes, I'm taking medication. A lot of people die while taking medication. But I'm still here. Why? I'm here for a reason.

What is that reason?

I'm here to inspire people. I feel like I'm here to inspire people because with me being here, with me struggling, getting sick, going through some of the crises, going through a relationship, having a baby, and still coming out and talking to people and say, "I'm here, I'm a woman, I'm HIV positive, and I'm living my life normally." It can happen! It can happen. But I always say that prevention is better than a cure. Prevention is better than a cure.

If I was someone now, if I was ten, I would not stop to have sex, I'm telling you. I would think twice or I would be well-informed. I would actually know the consequences. Not only the consequences of getting pregnant, HIV, emotional stress, depression, all that kind of stuff. That strains a person. That kills a person more than HIV. I would really get myself educated if I would be in that point now.

I feel like anyone as I feel like it also in my situation.

How do you think you and Melikhaya got through your diagnoses together? It's kind of a miraculous and unusual story.

It is. It's amazing, you know. I think it's all God's work because a lot of people were like, even in my family, they were telling Melikhaya, "Why are you still here? She's going to die, can't you see?" I was sick, totally. I was crying. I was begging [him] to leave me alone. I was begging [him] not to come and see me because I was so sick and I thought I was going to die, but he said, "I'm not going to go anywhere."

This was before you started treatment?

Yes. This was before I started treatment. He would beg me, because at first I didn't want to start ARVs [antiretrovirals]. I didn't want it at first. I said, "No, I'm not going to take them." Because there were all these myths surrounding us, telling us that if you take them, you miss one day, you're going to die. If you take them, you're going to deform into this. You're going to get big breasts, big boobs, and all that stuff. You're going to be out of shape. You have to swallow [them] and they're going to make you nauseous the whole time.

I was like, I'm not ready for that responsibility, but Melikhaya was there for me all the way. He said, "Thembi, the only thing that's going to help you is to take your ARVs." When I didn't want to go to the clinic -- it's actually amazing. He was not even ashamed of me, but I was ashamed of myself. The only way I could go was to cover myself with a blanket. He would just take me on his back with my mother, and they would take me straight to the hospital.

I think it all goes well, because everyone thought that maybe he was crazy or something. Everyone kept on asking, "What kind of love is that?" Even his family. My family was, even my family, my grandmother was asking, "Why are you still around? You are young and you should be out there enjoying yourself. She's going to die, can't you see?"

We got through it and here we are. We're still going strong here.

How did your Christian faith help you get through all of this?

It helped me a lot because I believed. Actually, it helped me to believe. It gave me hope. It helped me to believe, to actually say I believe. I put everything in God's hands. The only thing I have to do now is to take my medication, take my treatment, and just put my health first and everything else I leave to God.

It was up to him. I just had my faith in him. My Christianity really helps because there were times when I wouldn't want to take the pills. I would cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, and then I would cry, and then I would pray and I would think.

I'm still here. Why hasn't God taken me? This is my opportunity. I still have time. I can take this pill. I still have time. Even if it's one second, I still have time. Why hasn't he done anything? It's because he doesn't want to. Because he doesn't want to, so why should I say, "I beg him and say I'm going to wait up until God, up until I die, because I'm going to die"? How can I say that? I still have that one second, that moment, to take those pills and be alive.

I had faith and my [inaudible] although there was a time when she thought I was going to be [inaudible].

It's a really sad story, but now sometimes I look back and I laugh at it. I can't believe that I was sick. Even when they tease me, they're like, "Oh, when you were sick! Oh, you were crying! Now you're fat! [Laughs.] You're telling us whatever you want!"

It's kind of, you know, the sad part that I've got. It was different, because all those years I was doing all that stuff, I have not disclosed to my father, which was a no, no, no. Remember, before I started to do the diary I wanted to do the diary and the diary really helped me as the way of coming out. It was a way for me to actually come out. I really wanted to do it. It was really helping me, talking to the diary, recording alone. I was talking to it and just pouring my heart to it and what I really liked was that the diary was not talking back. The diary was not judging me. It was just there when I needed it.

The only thing that was in front of that was the fact that I have not disclosed to my father.

This was the audio diary that you did for NPR for year where you recorded your thoughts and they put it on the radio and on the Internet.

Yes. That's the diary.

How did that all start?

[Laughs.] I think that was the time when I got a break, actually. It was a breakthrough for me. It all started when I joined the support group and Joe Richman, who's the producer of Radio Diaries, was living in South Africa for five years. He was doing this documentary about youth and HIV. We met in Khayelitsha. He came to our support group. We were 20 and he interviewed us because he wanted to do this story.

I was telling the guys there, "You know what, guys, I'm going to give this story only if we can go there privately, one by one, because I'm not going to pour my heart in front of you guys, I'm sorry! [Laughs.] But that guy I don't know and that guy's from America! [Laughs.] I live in South Africa, so I'm safe.

That's when I started to do the diary. Joe interviewed me and he gave me a tape recorder. He's like, "You know, I'm going to give you a tape recorder. You must just play with it." I was excited, thinking that I was going to get a tape recorder like this, a fancy, smart, sexy tape recorder, only to find out he just gave me a huge, ugly, black, old tape recorder with a huge mic and huge earphones. Imagine carrying that for a year and a half! Winding around Khayelitsha, everyone thinking I was going crazy!

This is Khayelitsha. This is outside Capetown, is that right?

Yes. It's a township. It's the biggest township in Capetown.

I recorded for a year and a half and it was difficult. I was not programmed to record anything. I just recorded and then Joe would cut and take what he wants and cut whatever he doesn't want.

I was told to record important things like the highlights, like going to the clinic, disclosing to my father, taking treatment, having a discussion with Melikhaya, talking to my mother about how I came to decide to have a baby, and just my thoughts about the future and how I am handling being a mother and what do I wish for Onwabo in the future, and all that stuff. That's what I actually recorded.

All of this was going on and you had told a lot of other people, but your Dad still didn't know?

Yes. It was quite difficult. My Dad didn't know, but before I could even finish the diary, the diary was going to be out. Any time soon, he was going to know. I was like, I'm going to do it. I'm going to go and disclose to him and it's going to be on tape. I want people to actually see the reaction of how people really react when you disclose. Because either he's going to accept me or he's going to reject me. Whatever he does, it's going to go on tape. People are going to see that.

Sometimes it's not about disclosing. It's about accepting yourself and being ready before you disclose, not making the mistake of, "I have HIV. I'm going to go and disclose just because Thembi did so." You might lose a lot of things. For me, it was a matter of losing my Dad, but at the end of the day he'll still be my Dad. He's going to understand, rather than not doing what I actually want to do. It was either I'm going to lose him, but he'll always be my Dad. At the end of the day he's going to come around. Rather than me not doing what I feel is right for me. This is me I'm talking about. I have to put my feelings first.

I went and disclosed to him and it was all on tape. I was nervous. I went there three times and I didn't do anything. But the fourth time, I was like, "You know what, I'm just going to go and do it."

My mother was like, "You have to. If you really want to help people, you have to start within your family. Whatever the reaction, we are here to support you."

I went and I disclosed to him and, if you could hear the radio, you could hear his speech on the radio. He was shocked. Because, at first, I just asked him, "What do you think about HIV/AIDS?" He could not even let me finish. He was like, "I get angry about this disease because you grow up [with] your kids now and tomorrow your kid is dead."

He was so angry before I could even tell him. But when I actually told him, "Okay, I'm going to tell you. There's no going back."

He was shocked. He was like, "No, man, no, no, no. Really?!" I said, yes. I told him it's been many years. Everyone else knew, but no one could have told him except for me. He was very supportive and we're still close, although he is too much sometimes.

Why did you wait so long to tell him in particular?

I think because I grew up on both sides of the family, but I grew up mostly -- in my teenage years, I was actually staying with my father and my grandmother. Imagine that, being a girl staying with your grandmother, with your grandfather, and your father. It was weird! I was staying with them in my teenage life and it was actually not comfortable. It was not a comfortable situation for me.

In order for me to have boyfriends, to go out and do all that crazy stuff that I did, was for me to go to my mother's side. When I found out this whole thing about HIV, I actually was ashamed and I was scared to tell them. I had questions like, what the hell could I ask? You were living here. You mean you were living with another and you were having sex? You know, all those kinds of questions. You took it like a young girl and you were doing all this stuff. I thought that was what he was going to say. I thought, no, no, no, no, on my mother's side it's better because those are women; they understand. But for him, I didn't think he was going to understand.

How is all of your family at this point? You talked about Melikhaya's family at first being really upset. Do you feel like you have your family's support?

I have 100% of my family's support. My grandmother, my mother, my crazy brothers, my crazy sisters. I have Onwabo. I have everyone. I still have my grandmother. My grandfather is very, very old. He's 92. He's too old. I still have him. I'm blessed. I have my family very tight together.

What do you think gives you the courage to speak out when so many people don't?

I think it's because it helps me. I think I saw the impact it has on me. That's why I think it's like this every time I talk. I get healed. Because every time I talk about it, it feels like a new wound. I speak about it all the time, so I'm used to it. It's like every time I start to talk about it, it feels like it's a new wound. I'm opening up old sores. To talk, it heals me again. Every time I talk it heals me again and again. That's the courage.

What's it like being a positive Mom? Are you able to talk to your daughter at this point? She's still very young, but --

She's still very young, but I know that God is going to give me much more time, up until she gets a little bit bigger, so that I can explain everything. At this point, she's young but she knows that I go and talk, but she actually doesn't know what I'm talking about. But I have everything fixed up for her. I have the [inaudible] copies. I have all the work that I have done. I have pictures. I put them in a box.

When she's old enough to understand and ready enough to see, whether I'm here or not, I know she's going to be part of me. Everything is going to be fine.

What's it like being out in your community? You're sort of out to the whole universe. Do you experience stigma at all in the township where you live?

Yes. Stigma in every community is going to take a long time before we actually break the stigma, especially in Khayelitsha, because of how people's minds act. People are still stereotyped. There are a lot of cultural beliefs and there are a lot of myths going around.

"Sometimes some people say I'm doing the right thing, and you get those people who are like, 'What's up with you going around talking about your status? It's something confidential. You should hide it. You don't have to tell the world about it.' Some people think I'm exploiting myself, something like that."

Sometimes there's too much stigma and sometimes some people say I'm doing the right thing, and you get those people who are like, "What's up with you going around talking about your status? It's something confidential. You should hide it. You don't have to tell the world about it." Some people think I'm exploiting myself, something like that.

Other people are too jealous. I help people. I've had comments like, "You know what, even if you can go and tell the world, the fact is you're going to die anyway." It's not going to go away just because you go and tell it, so you can enjoy it while it lasts. You get comments like that, but who cares? It's not like everyone's going to be here up until the universe explodes. We're all going to die!

I can say I'm bulletproof. People say whatever they feel like saying. All I'm doing is focusing on what I'm doing. I don't care about all the comments, whether they are good or whether they are bad. I do what I feel is right for me and now I have a responsibility. I have Onwabo. I can manage to [inaudible] and take everything seriously.

Can you tell me a little bit about your community and about the township, just about your home?

My home is in Khayelitsha. It's a big township. All the houses are mostly in shacks, but thank God now the government has started to build up, so we have brick houses. My grandmother has a big brick house and my mother has a house. I stay with Melikhaya in our own house, but we are also in Khayelitsha. All of our family members are in Khayelitsha, but Khayelitsha is so big.

How many people live there?

I don't know. A lot! [Laughs.] Imagine if you talk about shacks, you're talking about three houses in a small spot. Imagine how many of those -- there a lot of problems. The highest rate of people in Khayelitsha are mostly HIV-positive. I think that's why the MSF [Médecins Sans Frontiéres] clinic is based there. That's why the [inaudible] are all out of ARVs in Khayelitsha.

I'm sorry, can you describe that?

Khayelitsha is so big that most of the people in Khayelitsha are HIV-positive, so that's why MSF is there. It was the first township to receive ARVs. They're all out of ARVs. I was lucky to be in that township. Imagine if I was not living in Khayelitsha! I would have struggled like anyone else did.

I'm sorry, so it's the MSF there? What is that?

It's Doctors Without Borders.

In Khayelitsha, there's pretty good antiretroviral access?

Yes. It's pretty good. We get them for free and we get access to everything we need, and the medication, and you get it for free.

It's not like that in the rest of the country?

No, it's not like that in the rest of the country. There are parts of South Africa where you struggle to get ARVs, where there is no [inaudible] or where people have to walk miles to get them. They have no access at all or they have a limited access.

What treatment do you take now?

I am now on nevirapine, d4T (Zerit, stavudine), and 3TC (Epivir, lamivudine).

How has your health been since you started treatment?

Before I started, my CD4 count was 120. Now my CD4 count has gone up pretty much, although I still struggle to be back on my normal weight. My normal weight is 45kg [99 lbs], but now I'm only 43kg [95 lbs], so I've struggled. I'm not actually reaching that. I also don't want to be fat, excuse me!

[Laughs.] You're very tiny!

But, excuse me, I do not want to be fat! Imagine being tiny and short and being fat, it's not good.

My weight is fine now and my health is good. The weirdest thing is that I've never had any -- I've had opportunistic infections, like TB [tuberculosis]. I had it twice. I've never had an STD [sexually transmitted disease]; that is weird. The only thing that I had was TB. I had it twice and I treated it, so my health is fine. Onwabo's health is fine. I take her to the doctor even if she has a runny nose because she likes to play outside! [Laughs.] Melikhaya is still doing well.

Melikhaya hasn't started treatment yet?

No, he has not started. I think they're going to start him, because his CD4 count is 500 and he has experienced pains in the chest, but it's not TB. I think it has something to do with the heart or something. He's still looking into it.

What's your CD4 and viral load now?

My viral load now is undetectable. Imagine how many years I've been taking ARVs! My CD4 count is seven [hundred] something.

That's fantastic!

From one to seven is [phew!].

What was your count when you were first diagnosed?

It was 167 when I was diagnosed and they said, "You should start ARVs." I was like, no, no, no! All those stories. Then it dropped down to 120 and I'm like, okay! Please, please, please, please just give me this one chance. I'm going to do it right.

Switching gears a little bit, can you tell me how the audio journal has launched you into this world of international activism?

Man, it has done a lot! If I think back, doing that diary made me sick most of the time. I was like, I don't want to do this. I don't want to spend my whole year recording something about AIDS. What are people going to say about me? This is crazy!

But now, it has formed me into a very mature woman, and responsible. It has shown me the world. It has really made me -- even if I was going to lose hope, now I can never lose hope because I've got all these people looking up to me. That gives me the strength.

It's all because of the diary. That's the only reason I'm here. It's because of the diary. Every time I see Joe Richman, I'm like, thank God you came to Khayelitsha and found me in those [inaudible] Who knows? I might be dead by now.

So your life has changed a lot! You've been a UNICEF ambassador; you won an award for your audio journal. What is this new life like?

It's nice, although I have to talk about the same thing. [Laughs.] It's nice, but the [bad] part is that I have to talk about the same thing. For me, every time I start to talk -- I don't talk to one people, I talk to different audiences. It's a different vibe and every time I talk, I talk about it. It comes fresh.

I know that I'm doing a good thing. I know that. People appreciate what I'm doing and even if I don't help -- I'm not going to save the world -- but at least there's going to be just that one person that is going to take something back.

It's a really nice world. It's fine when you are here, but when you go back to Khayelitsha, it's the same old thing! It's the same old thing.

How do you think HIV has changed you?

It has changed me for the better, because I think if I really didn't have the test, I wouldn't be who I am today. I would still be the ignorant whoever I was, whatever I was then. I would still think low of people that have HIV. I wouldn't be involved in any HIV work. Imagine! Imagine not knowing your status and being involved in HIV work, that's crazy! [inaudible] I would be one of those people who say, "Oh, well, it can never happen to me. It's not like I'm sleeping around." I use a condom once, sometimes, it's not like, you know, you know what I mean, I would be one of those people, I wouldn't take anything seriously. It has transformed me into this place, and that is actual. I'm taking things more seriously and it has made me grow so quickly.

Thembi, thank you so much for talking with me. Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

I think that, as people, we should actually acknowledge that HIV is here and we need to do something about it. We should stop blaming people and blaming each other. We should work around it. Work around the stigma and discrimination, work around everything that's surrounding it. Because at the end of the day, the children are going to suffer and we are also going to suffer. Since I'm a mother, I really don't want Onwabo to grow up in a world like this. I really don't want her, in the future, sitting like this and thinking, "Oh my God, I tested HIV-positive." I mean, come on! As if we didn't have the courage to do anything about it. We do have it! It's just that we don't want to or we don't see it, I don't know. But it's up to an individual. You have to push yourself.

Thank you.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Thembisa Ngubane died of drug-resistant tuberculosis on June 4, 2009. Read more about her death and legacy.

This podcast is a part of the series This Positive Life. To subscribe to this series, click here.


This article was provided by TheBody.com. It is a part of the publication The XVII International AIDS Conference.
 
See Also
More Inspiring Stories of Young People With HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: www.thebody.com (dweBcYzedyERk) Thu., Mar. 31, 2011 at 7:04 am EDT
Art48013.. WTF? :)
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Comment by: CINDY (KWAZULU NATAL,PORT SHEPSTONE) Sun., Aug. 15, 2010 at 11:12 pm EDT
THIS IS SO TOUCHY AND INSIPERING
SHE GIVES A LOT OF PPL HOPE AND TO BE FREE
TALKING WITH HIV AND TELL IF R DIAGNOSE WITH HIV

KEEP IT UP GIRL
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Comment by: Lindo (Durban, KwaZulu-Natal) Thu., Feb. 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm EST
Thembi was really one of the bravest people I ever met! Her courage, wisdom and optimism. There are so many factors that contribute to the high prevalent of HIV/AIDS and one of them is poverty! While other teenagers go to libraries, movies, museums, theatres, all sort of fancy but good entertainment activities...what do poor people do? they only have each other to love & care for hence they end up havin sex at a very early stage like 16yrs because basicaly they dont have anything better to do with their time. An example would be, in a South african township how many people have actually seen a Lion live...1/1000! shocking hey. I still feel that although there are so many fun things to do in SA (for teens) but all these things arent accessible to poor people. Hence we only have bars and clinics!!! When it all said and done, teenagers and young Adults in SA need to take responsibility...The parents as well need to start engaging their kids in matters regarding sex and all other staff! It is my dream one day to have an HIV free generation...this is too painful! Every where I travel across the ground whenever I say Im from SA people start asking about HIV as if that's the only thing SA is famous for...HIV has taken so much from us, as poor people the only thing we have is our pride and dignity but the virus manages to still that from us and then there's TB issue as well which requires the full attention of our health department. Most people in SA are not killed by HIV but by the ancient TB.
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Comment by: sbo (durban) Thu., Dec. 24, 2009 at 4:11 am EST
May her soul rest in peace sha was a very brave person, my inspiration
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Comment by: gina (baxley georgia) Tue., Dec. 1, 2009 at 8:57 pm EST
wow! this is truly sad but an inspiration! to everyone that has been suffering from this disease, please continue praying and i hope you all continue to have strong faith in christ! may god be with you all!
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Comment by: andile (Pretoria) Sat., Nov. 21, 2009 at 8:53 am EST
i am proud of you, we need people like you to inspire us. god bless u
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Comment by: Panda (Detroit, MI) Fri., Nov. 20, 2009 at 5:24 pm EST
Her story really is/was an inspiration. No one can tell you how or when you will die, its up to you. Either you can usher yourself into an early grave or you can fight to live your life on your terms.
RIP Thembi a shining beacon of hope
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Comment by: Lungie (South Africa ) Wed., Oct. 28, 2009 at 9:38 am EDT
I am angry that a young dynamic girl like Thembi will pass this early , I am 35yrs old tested positive 15 years ago , I have never been sick before , been on drug brake 3 times , To all people living with HIV lets not give up , its a mind desease , Lets beat it no amount of tb o OI should take you down !!!! Long live HIVers Long live!!!!!
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Comment by: Mbu Mvusi (mvusim@eskom.co.za) Thu., Sep. 24, 2009 at 7:22 am EDT
It is inspiring to see Thembi Ngubane,as an activist,being 'deternined'to live.
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Comment by: Temwa (Johannesburg, RSA) Wed., Sep. 23, 2009 at 8:00 am EDT
Thembi may your saul rest in Peace, god will look after your daughter.
I am a lady, 27 years, i found out i was HIV+ in 2000. I was pregnant with my first child, it was just at the routine check up that i found out.
I was 19 years at that time, a young single girl, i thought my was going to an end, i didnt know what to do but to pray, pray that my child will be ok, pray that God will not punish my child for my mistakes.
God did answer my prayers, a had a son, i breastfed him for 18 months, even though they had told me not to, i had no choice, there was no free milk at the clinics at that time, but the good Lord was by my side, my son is now a healthy 8 year old, HIV- I took him for tests every year almost until he turned 7, just to believe that he really is negative. I thank God for my life, i live a healthy life, have never been sick with any HIV related illnesses, have never taken any HIV meds, only vitamins and stuff like that.
I am now married to a wonderful man, who is also HIV+ We are happy together, we dont have to hide anything from each other, we talk about it, look after each other. We are also blessed with another Son, who is also HIV-. With all that i know God loves me, keeps me alive for a reason, and that if you believe, anything is possible.I am happy with my life, i think being in this position has made me stronger, loving and appreciate the people that are close to me. As Thembi always said, HIV is a part of us, not the other way round.I know i still have a future ahead of me, i have children to look after, and God is always there for me.

To all the other people out there, HIV is not a death sentence, if it was, i could have died many years ago, but am still here, that should mean something.
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Comment by: Kgaka (Joburg,SA) Mon., Aug. 31, 2009 at 4:19 pm EDT
I hope the lord continues blessing u. Whether positive or negative, I am going to go for my dreams. Thanks for the inspiration.
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Comment by: Bongy Thu., Jun. 25, 2009 at 10:13 am EDT
This is a very inspiring story. It motivated me a lot and I'm sure it will motivate others. May GOD bless you.
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Comment by: Anonymous (RSA Johannesburg) Thu., Jun. 25, 2009 at 3:40 am EDT
wow! you have been very brave sister!
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Comment by: Karabo (Molefe) Wed., Jun. 24, 2009 at 8:21 am EDT
Hi, my name is Karabo, I live in Johannesburg, 32 years of age. I really don't have much to say. I have read Thembi's story and was very inspired.I tested hiv in 2001. Since then I guess life hasn't been the same. I never find true love since then, I'm very lonely and need someone to really love me. I'm so unhappy and sad most of the time, it's not the fact that I'm hiv, it's just that I'm lonely. If there's any hiv positive man out there who is as lonely as I am, please, please send me an email at karabo.molefe@ymail.com. He has to be around Johannesburg. Please anybody just help me. I need love, so bad it hurts.

Thank you
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Comment by: lila (Immokalee Fl) Thu., Jun. 18, 2009 at 3:52 pm EDT
I'm from Haiti and I work as an HIV counselor we need this story in our community to fight stigma -- specially in my Haitian community they won't even talk about it. Some of them tested positive won't even come to get treatment cos they afraid of what someone may think about them. Your story inspired me. GOD will give Melikhaya the strength and courage to raise your daughter right. People will never forget you, Thembi. R.I.P
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Comment by: Rhulanie (limppo) Tue., Jun. 16, 2009 at 9:23 am EDT
I am really touched by Thembi's story. I first saw her story on television. She was a brave woman. May her soul rest in peace.
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Comment by: Justine (Windhoek, Namibia) Mon., Jun. 15, 2009 at 8:13 am EDT
All I would say is that it took a lot of courage for such a young and petite woman to disclose her status. She has teached us a lot about HIV/AIDS and I admire her very much. I lost both my older sisters to HIV-related illnesses and I would sometimes ask myself why it had to happen to us twice? Up to today I still mourn the death of my sister who died recently in February this year but I have found solice in God and even reading about Thembi's interview and listening to her audio diary has made me a stronger person. If she who was infected and could make and live with it, who am I? I have to learn to live with it. She will live on even though she is gone. May her soul rest in peace. And to Melikhaya, I would say you are one of the bravest young men I have ever seen, who would have stayed with a woman despite being infected with HIV/AIDS? May you find strength in GOD and raise your daughter Onwabo as Thembi would have wanted her to grow up, a proud young girl just like her mother. All the strength to both Thembi and Melikhaya's families in this difficult time.
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Comment by: Nansubuga (Uganda) Mon., Jun. 15, 2009 at 4:32 am EDT
I listened to Thembi's interview and she was so interesting. She was very inspiring and will continue to inspire a lot. I thank God for her and her loving, supportive family. It's not easy, but God will see you (family) through. I pray God protects and guides her daughter. May Thembi's soul rest in peace with God. Onwabo, you had a great mother that will never be forgotten in the world. Be blessed.
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Comment by: Larrissa Mudoh (Houston) Fri., Jun. 12, 2009 at 1:48 pm EDT
Tembi, may your soul rest in perfect peace.You have inspired so many and your work will live on to the future generation.
RIP
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Comment by: okello (Uganda) Fri., Jun. 12, 2009 at 4:30 am EDT
May her soul rest in eternal peace amen
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Comment by: Kirk (Dallas, TX) Thu., Jun. 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm EDT
I am thankful for her. She touched a lot of people with her story, and she touched me. So, young but she accomplished so much in a short time.
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Comment by: anonymous (SA) Wed., Jun. 10, 2009 at 10:43 am EDT
May her soul rest in peace....
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Comment by: khabo (naledi,soweto) Wed., Jun. 10, 2009 at 7:35 am EDT
The first time i heard about you i was so shocked. how can you have hiv @ that age? You are a strong woman, I love you so much. Keep the fire burning. Good luck in life to thembi
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Comment by: petros (pretoria) Sat., May. 30, 2009 at 12:19 pm EDT
hi thembi...how are u..i have been listening to your story over the internet, and im inspired by your courage and please keep up the positive attitude and the positive living.
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Comment by: Thembelihle (university of zululand) Wed., May. 20, 2009 at 5:58 pm EDT
Thembi you are very brave woman. I found about my status in 2006. Sometimes I feel like the world is closing down on me. I wish my friends knew what I feel like but they wouldn't understand because they are not HIV positive. I wish I could have someone I cud talk to about this. I'm not so sure about the support group but your story just took a bit off on my shoulders.I didn't give up on my life. I'm studying. This is my second year @ da varsity.Thanks again for your inspiring story. Just wish we could meet one day and talk.
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Comment by: Jade (Kzn,RSA) Thu., Apr. 16, 2009 at 6:24 pm EDT
Im also hiv pos,tested in 2008. i sometimes hate my boyfriend 4 infecting mi. plz pray 4 mi.
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Comment by: Buraua.Itimwemwe (Kiribati ) Wed., Apr. 8, 2009 at 11:35 pm EDT
I am HIV positive too and I am very touched by your story. Great story.
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Comment by: Bongi (RSA) Tue., Mar. 24, 2009 at 2:28 am EDT
I am a 24 yrs old lady, i was diagonised with hiv in 2006, i used to hate you when you talk about hiv on tv, because i was ignorant, but at the sometime you give hope and inspired me, i didn't want admit the fact that i'm hiv positive, but this year i tested again with my partner to be sure we are positive,and i'm feeling guilty because i infected him, i dont even know how to tell my family, but i put it all into God's hands. your story gives hope, keep it up, you are doing great job!
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Comment by: lorraine (uk) Sat., Jan. 17, 2009 at 5:23 pm EST
thembi, your story is so inspirational. i was diagnosed with hiv in 2001 at the age of 19 and have 2 children now. good on you for making the decision of having onwabo despite what people said. i also admired melikhaya for being there for you and your family support. you are a super woman, brave and courageous to come this far, may god bless you and your family and give you long life.
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Comment by: Sachin (India) Fri., Jan. 9, 2009 at 6:32 am EST
Being hiv+ & decided to have hiv- Daughter is ur courage & this type of courage should everybody have.
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Comment by: phyllis (cameroon) Sun., Jan. 4, 2009 at 3:53 am EST
Thembi, you are the shinning light! Your life is an inspiring example to all HIV+ ladies out there who fear the stigma. I just hope many will learn from this and be able to use their status as a strength than weakness. There other diseases that are worse than HIV. You have given me the courage to believe in myself and to come out of my cocoon! I think talking about it is the greatest healing power ever. Stigma or not, we need to put hands together and fight. I have always wanted to have children and nothing is going to be in my way -- not even HIV. With the grace of God, I'll travel the world and live life to the full. May God bless u Thembi and grant you and your child long life. This illness has never changed the course of my life, my dreams still remain and i know i will fulfill them. I have the support 200% of my parents and my boyfriend who is negative. Life is a continuous battle of survival and this is our battle. We are going to win in Jesus's name!! You are my inspiration.
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Comment by: maame (london) Mon., Dec. 22, 2008 at 10:24 pm EST
i decided to take an active part in HIV research because i feel like most people my age(19) do not want to accept the fact that this disease is real and to the people out there who think God has sent this disease to wipe out the "bad people", please think again.There are so many people who are living with HIV who did not contract it through promiscuity; can u blame the innocent babies and some victims of rape??? Even people who contract this disease through sex do not ask for it.I think it is time we all stood up and took a stand to help people living with HIV and make the world a better place for them and for everyone.I do not know my status and i'm planning to go for a test, if i test negative, i will thank God if i test positive, the only thing i can do is maintain a healthy lifestyle, continue to serve my living God and do what our lovely sis has done; talk about the disease!!!!!.Wether we like it or not, we're all in this together.Let's stop the prejudice and let's stop being judgmental....We should love one another because even with all our faults, God still loves us.
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Comment by: Sindi (South Africa) Mon., Dec. 22, 2008 at 6:42 am EST
Thambi thank you so much about telling us your story it shows that the is light at the end of the turnell, we can still live a positive life keep it up.

Cheers Sister
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Comment by: Mpendulo (Pretoria(South Africa)) Tue., Nov. 25, 2008 at 3:16 am EST
I am truly inspired about Thembi's story. I tested + last year in April when I was 22. Just a week before my Graduation. I was so depressed and shocked, but now things are different. I have just finished my exams in an honours degree and I have been accepted for my masters degree for 2009. I have a great support system at home, I'm blessed to have the kind of mother I have. Last week I went for my CD4 count and I'm going to get the results later on today. HIV is not a death sentence. I was with a man for 4 years and when I was in my second year he passed away. I suspected it was HIV related but I always manage to convince my self other wise. I was really scared, I feared, but I managed to go there. I had promised myself to get tested after my degree. I have hope and I believe in God. If HE brought me to it, HE shall get me through it. I am in a relationship for three months now, with a loving and caring man. I am afraid to disclose to him. I fear rejection, I'm not a bad person. I hope one day I can be brave enough and live the truth that I know with the man I love. I get more inspired reading about stories like Thembi. All I can do is believe, I mean what it's the worst thing that can happen? The worst is over. I have my whole life ahead of me. I wish God can bless Thembi and her family.
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Comment by: lethiwe thusi (bulawayo zimbabwe) Fri., Oct. 31, 2008 at 9:39 am EDT
To Thembi: I salute you. I wish God could give me the strength that you have. You went to test alone and still got your results alone and are still today going strong. I wish I were you. Thembi, please, I pray with you that Onwabo grows up and finds you still strong. You are so brave, girl.
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Comment by: Silence (Miami, FL) Tue., Oct. 21, 2008 at 12:21 pm EDT
Thank you Thembi for an inspiring story. You are truly brave. I pray that God continue to bless you through it all. HIV is not a death sentence, neither is living with AIDS. The stigma about this life threatening disease is sad. It is now 20 years later since the disease was acknowledged into existence here in the USA, and we still find people who are ignorant of the disease. All the clinics, education and support groups that exist here, I still find that there are many who are still in the dark about HIV/AIDS. I have a friend who is now in his last stage of this disease. It brings tears to my eyes to see him whithering away. I don't know how to reach out and give my support anymore. It is a silent killer for many who think they can be immune from it. I wish there was more that I can say and do to convince many that educating oneself and getting tested is the first step to understanding HIV/AIDS. Most of all prevention is the key. Keep up the good work. Like polio, TB and many other disease in the past, I hope and pray that some day the medical field will find a cure. Thembi, God has a purpose for you in this life. You are an "angel" on earth for many. Keep up your inspiring work.
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Comment by: Anonymous (UK) Tue., Oct. 14, 2008 at 11:33 am EDT
Thanks a lot, Thembi, for your inspiring story. My mother has just recently told me she was diagnosed two weeks ago. I live with her and have been really worried of saying the wrong things to offend her. I also feel very low sometimes, thinking she might not see my wedding and imagining life without her ... She is my best friend in the world. She has just recently started taking medication as they said her CD4 count was low. We are both Christians and your story has inspired me. I will ask her to read it and be inspired too. I don't know my status at the present time but I am thinking of going to get tested as I know the earlier the diagnosis the better. Thanks so much Thembi and other people too who have written their stories. It has made me realise that I must stay positive and encourage my mother. Remember, God loves you and He is always there for you. He is only a kneel away.
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Comment by: olivetti (namibia) Mon., Oct. 13, 2008 at 11:04 am EDT
Thembi, I am touched by your story and I would like you to be my partner to fight for life as I am also HIV positive since 2004 but It is hard for me to accept.I got married in 1998 but my husband is not positive and my child who is turning 9 yrs.I am on ARV Combivir and Stocrin but struggling to gain weight. Please help me. Long Live Thembi
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Comment by: SILES C YOUNGE (Brooklyn Ny) Fri., Oct. 10, 2008 at 1:56 pm EDT
Hi Thembi, I heard you speak on the Body I think you are a beautiful woman. I have been + since 1984 and I am in very good shape. I would like to get to know you better.
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Comment by: tannya (calgary,ab Canada) Tue., Oct. 7, 2008 at 7:16 pm EDT
this is very inspiring, i have always thought i wud never get the virus esp my backgrund and wer im from! i still think that miraculously there will be a cure around the corner and god willing to give us all a chance and this time live life as He had! After all he did die for us so coming up with a cure would be a miracle from him to us diagnosed, i'm sure he can as he cured the blind n healed who needed healing..etc.. so i pray all the time and i jus believe that He will give me a second chance and start my own family and have a wonderful husband. i'm in luv with sum1 but i'm afriad to tell him so i gotta live with it and jus move on into positive things. for example my goal is to get into policing! n further my goals and career into sumthing i will b known for ! i kno god will come thru for us all! i am not a heavy into christian but i grew up in it so i beleve in it and limited people kn bout me only my sis and 3 of my frends that are gurls and one of my cousins who is a guy! other than that god bless u and ur family ! that i hope ne day i will have! oh i jus got diagnsed this yr in april 2008 and not on meds yet ! so i wud like to travel overseas before i do get on meds! god help u and us all! stay positive coz we are all bound to have better healthier courageous lives! bye for now
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Comment by: ify (nigeria) Sat., Oct. 4, 2008 at 3:02 am EDT
Thembi, I am so touched by your story. Having to face up to the challenge before you the way you did was absolutely by the Grace of God. You have a wonderful & rare young man by your side. I don't know if you are a born again christian, if you are not, please take that bold step. It's easy, just ask the Lord Jesus to come into your life & be your Lord & saviour. Life would take a newer and more wonderful dimension for the better if you do. I care about you and wish you the best things of life. God bless and keep you, Melikhaya & your baby.
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Comment by: Lionjoe (UK) Sat., Sep. 20, 2008 at 4:54 pm EDT
Thank God for people like you Thembi. May God bless you and your family and may He give you more years on earth. Stigma is what we have to deal with in the fight againt HIV if we deal with that we will be half way there. We can win the fight with people like you.
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Comment by: Agudze Larbi, J (Accra, Ghana) Thu., Sep. 18, 2008 at 8:35 am EDT
Brave lady what a touching experience. I work in HIV support and we need this story in Ghana to fight HIV and AIDS stigma.
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Comment by: forkah denis chofor (cameroon) Wed., Sep. 17, 2008 at 11:33 am EDT
hello sirs,
it is really what i can't understand because my self i never think of being such a patient but today i find my self to be one. but i have taken it with all my heath and I am praying to God to give me all the courage he can so as to permit me to take my drugs and stay on while hoping that one a cure will be available for this malicious disease.
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Comment by: tina (south africa) Mon., Sep. 15, 2008 at 5:16 am EDT
I'm blessed and happy to read this article. this is a good example of how we should step up and fight the giants in our lives. i have seen personally in my life that since i took my HIV test, i dont take life for granted any more. i value my life now and i protect it so much, nut if i did'nt take the test, i would still be in the darka nd who knows even re infect my self again. i have now been on treatment for a year now and i'm doing so well and and i have no TB no skin rashes and my cd4 count is 500 now which is excellent. i'm also getting married in september 2008 to my wonderful fiancee who is negative and i'm at university doing medicine and i'm in my fourth year now. really , u can make it out there, HIV is not the end of the road. i have a dream and i know i'll be a doctor in two years time and i'll have two children... so once again,,, those of u out there with HIV, dont look at th disease, look at Jesus, if he made u, he is able to bring you out of this too and u are strong and special not every one is able to cope wiht this but th fact that u're alive and still healthy, common... THE SKY IS THE LIMIT... GOD BLESS U THEMBI AND UR WHOLE FAMILY AND ALL THE READERS
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Comment by: lipodystrophy (Cameroun) Thu., Sep. 11, 2008 at 11:20 am EDT
Thank you Thembi for the courageous work that you have done to speak the prophetic truth and education about HIV/AIDS.I hope groups like the vatican,catholic church and other churches see the truth like you and stop working for the devil by alowing innocent young people and women die of hiv/aids by deceiving them not to use condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS.These groups for the sake of their powers see the deaths und suffering of millions of women and children,men and ophans of african as nothing worthy.Their powers and dogmas are more than human life.these churches put their doctrines more than human life and the right to live. All my neigbours have been wiped out by aids and we catholics are forbidden from using condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS. One day the pope,cardinals,bishops, and priests etc will pay dearly from God for causing the deaths of all my neighbours and the deaths of millions of africans by deceiving them from using condom. Let the Pope know he has deceived many africans from using condoms to prevent hiv/aids and so he is responsible for the deaths of millions of africans and others around the world!
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Comment by: Chimwemwe (Lilongwe, Malawi) Mon., Sep. 1, 2008 at 5:13 am EDT
Thembie, that was courageous of you. Keep it up and keep on encouraging us. Take care of that precious daughter, its your special gift from God.
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Comment by: Clement (Zomba, Malawi) Thu., Aug. 28, 2008 at 4:39 am EDT
Wonderful story Thembi, yours is a strong powerful light lighting up the negativity that surrounds HIV & AIDS. Keep strong you have many more years to live and continue lighting up the world I believe. Know what, we all live for as long as we are willing to, or for as long as we are useful to our world which you very much are
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Comment by: RONNIE KIGONGO (UGANDA) Wed., Aug. 27, 2008 at 5:37 am EDT
THEMBI THANK YOU FOR THE MESSAGE COZ IT HAS GIVEN ME COURAGE TO GO HAVE HIV TESTS
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Comment by: subratamohapatra Thu., Aug. 14, 2008 at 11:41 pm EDT
You have been so brave, so courageous, that it cannot be expressed in words. I felt God's wishes are sprouting through you as HE wants to make you an true INSPIRATION for millions. May God remain all along with you.
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Comment by: Q.Brown Mon., Aug. 11, 2008 at 4:03 am EDT
You have an STRONG HEART. Keep your head UP.
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Comment by: Matema frm Polokwane (RSA) Mon., Aug. 11, 2008 at 3:00 am EDT
This is so inspiring!I personally, was diagnosed in 1997, i mean this is the eleventh year and i'm not yet on ARV's cd4 count still high. I have an eight year old daughter and a beautiful six months son.It's all about being positive about life and with God! everything is possible. Hopefully there will be cure for HI virus.
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Comment by: hashem Sat., Aug. 9, 2008 at 8:05 am EDT
mmmm.... u sound so courageous young girl......guess many older guys could not face it or act this way,,, this is really inspiring ,,, all of luck
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Comment by: Shellie Ann Fri., Aug. 8, 2008 at 6:04 pm EDT
Wow, I am very happy for you that you got the courage up to go and get tested. I wish there was something like a Love Life in Jamaica. We have many taboos surrounding the issue and even our aids funds are not very open and accepting.
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Comment by: Matshingwana Fri., Aug. 8, 2008 at 12:30 pm EDT
A really touching story,sounds like a TV drama. Good to read about real life stories. Thembi is really brave, May the Good Lord bless her and give her more days to live so that she may continue to inspire and educate.
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Comment by: Michelle Lopez. Fri., Aug. 8, 2008 at 10:38 am EDT
As a mother with a daughter that was born HIV positive and she is now eigthteen and healthy, I must say that this young lady makes me proud of her humbleness and her being willing to stand up and address stigma is a true inspiration. She is also a testimony of what faith and believing in god can do. May god continue to bless you richly my dear.
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Comment by: Salem Fri., Aug. 8, 2008 at 6:51 am EDT
Thank you for featuring this great interview! Her story is impressive and inspiring, indeed, for both HIV positive and negative people.
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Comment by: Anonymous Fri., Aug. 8, 2008 at 4:46 am EDT
Hi Thembi,
What an interesting read.I'm also HIV positive, I was diagnosed last year in October.I must say your article has given me hope, that there is love sfter HIV,I'm currently single, there is someone who's interested,but I'm scared that they might change their minds once they hear that I'm HIV positive.Just like you my x-boyfriend got sick and he told me that he had TB,unfortunately I never got the chance to see him after we broke up,but we kept intouch when he was hospitalized.This is when I decided to go for the HIV test and it came back positive.It was hard at first but have forgiven myself and my x-boyfriend,who unfortunately is no longer with us.I still have to get the courage to go for my cd 4 count and to tell my mother,she is my biggest critic,I just can't imagine what she will say when I tell her that I'm HIV positive, one day hopefully I will.For now, I'm taking each day as it comes,I'm studying towards my accounting qualification,I'm eating healthy and exercise for about an hour whenever I can. Finding love again is definitely on my mind, but I'm in no rush, guess you could say that I'm afraid of rejection,so until then,guess I will remain single,hopefully not for too long.But Thembi I must command you on your courage,strong-will and positive attitude and for God to bless with you a child,after testing positive,not forgetting the wonderful man who has stuck by you through thick and thin,you are truly blessed.Keep it up girlfriend.Stay strong and keep being a role model,you are definitely mine.
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Comment by: Sego Fri., Aug. 8, 2008 at 4:33 am EDT
You have been very brave. I don't know if anyone can do it, but you did it. Happy woman's day keep on being an inspiration to our generation. I won't mind to meet you.
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Comment by: Man V from RSA Johannesburg Fri., Aug. 8, 2008 at 3:51 am EDT
This is really a great story that need to be shared with the entire global population.Its quite inspiring and it stops people without the HIV know how to keep motivated and pursue their dreams than loose hope.Myths and negativity about HIV can be sorted to an extent given an amazing story like this.I have been positive for a year now. Guess what HIV is not a death sentence, Im here to live "eternally".Keep it up Thembi.
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