When Nontsikelelo Makiki was diagnosed as HIV-positive 15 years ago, she was devastated and contemplated committing suicide.
She said her ex-boyfriend wrote a letter on his death bed urging all the women he had had sexual relations with, to have themselves tested for HIV. Shortly afterward, he died.
Initially, she was scared and reluctant to go to the clinic.
She was in denial, but when she started losing weight and developed skin problems, she decided to get tested.
Her worst fears were confirmed when results indicated that she was HIV positive.
It was too difficult for her to accept her status and she believed she would die soon. The 45-year-old mother of two was among many women and men who attended the Afrika Tikkun march in Mfuleni to commemorate World Aids Day, on Friday December 1.
The march raised awareness about the pandemic and cautioned against some myths associated with the pandemic. The march also encouraged people to practise safe sex and know their HIV status.
Ms Makiki said for years she had been discreet about her status because she feared victimisation from family and society.
It was her eldest son who encouraged her to inform her family.
Ms Makiki said she eventually disclosed her status to her family, but they never gave her the support she needed.
Instead, she said, they started acting strangely towards her and distanced themselves from her. Even today they have not accepted her status.
“They would not allow me to use a knife to peel whatever and feared that my blood would contaminate the food and infect them with HIV.
“They have changed how they treat me since the day I told them.
My relationship with my family is rocky. I opted to join this march to raise awareness about HIV and share my story,” she said.
Ms Makiki urged people living with HIV to disclose their status to their partners and insist on using a condom.
Afrikka Tikkun primary health care programmes manager, Yvonne Arendse, said the march was organised to raise awareness and teach people to live positively with those infected by the virus.
Ms Arendse said child-headed households were on the rise because of the disease.
She added that more young people were affected and infected with the virus.
She said in many communities HIV/Aids still had the stigma of being a “death sentence”. “We want people who are HIV-positive to be accepted. HIV is not a death sentence,” she said.
Nurse at Mfuleni Clinic, Gregory Paulse, said many young people were still ignorant about HIV/Aids and unwilling to use condoms, and that the march had played a vital role in educating the community about making informed decisions.