Monday, May 14, 2007

Sanza Tshabalala (For Dazed & Confused : Japan)

In The Words of
The Average Citizen: "Loosely I believe that our government moved in with a very democratic ideal. Contrary to popular belief I feel that our government does care and we as young South Africans, should care about the fact that it cares. In the midst of all the controversy I also believe our health minister was and hopefully still is a great medical brain. Many may forget but she was a nurse/doctor and active in the days of the struggle. I see President Thabo Mbheki, as a deep thinker and despite what people may say, I believe he does care about the legacy that Tata Mandela has bestowed on South Africans. But different leaders have different challenges and HIV/Aids is a huge challenge to most world governments.

"Truth be told who is having it easy anywhere in the world with HIV/Aids? As the youth we need to make it our business to learn more and come up with well-researched opinions about not just the virus spread but also about solutions in this fight against HIV/Aids. I know for a fact that South Africa is investing in youth to research and help heal, not only our nation, but also the entire continent in hope of bringing about and a lasting solution to this mess. So really, as a South African I don’t take kindly to all the hyped up criticism from the so-called caring theorists- both from around the world and within our borders who say things like “ The South African government is killing its people with regards to healing, testing and preventing HIV/AIDS amongst its people. There are so many unanswered questions like “ Can our government legislate sex? Or how can government prevent the numbers of HIV infections and stop the spread of Aids?”

"Fair enough, but it seems that the answer the world wants is for us as Africans to “buy oils from the Western pharmaceuticals at the expense of many other equally important responsibilities. Namely education, poverty and other socially crucial faculties, which in reality are related to HIV/Aids. Whatever the answer might be youth have to continue with all these challenges. Just like youth who lived in the times of World War One and Two. Those affected during the in the Gulf War and the war on terrorism. The young people who fought during apartheid, those now living in the reality of the crisis in Zimbabwe .The millions affected by famine and many other struggles that the world has seen. I remain hopeful that the world joins that chant and we continue probing and living in this dying or dying in this living. Ras Faya."


Sibu Sibaca (For Dazed & Confused : Japan)

In The Words of
The Aids Orphan: "What I had to say may not have changed what went on to decide and do, but it showed them the other side of Africa, that we weren’t a bunch of basket cases, we weren’t loosing our minds, we weren’t all dying of aids and we weren’t all begging on the streets. I’m from a small township called Langa, which is in the Western Province. I grew up in a protected family; you know a brother, a mother and a father who all lived in the same house. My dad was even a pastor and a respected member of the community. I was the kind of child whose life had pretty much been planned out by the time I was two years old. Growing up I was very strong academically; I did really well in school. I was very strong physically too. I even played netball for my province and athletics as well. Things were going pretty well, and I was nominated to be head girl in my last year of primary school.

"Then my mom fell ill in May 1996 then died 2nd June 1996.I was young and didn’t really understand what was happening, I do remember that my uncle, her brother past away shortly before too. Because they were close I told myself that she had died and fell ill because her brother had. That was the only way it made sense in my head back then. You know my mother had never been sick before but over a period of four or five weeks she was in and out of hospital. The last time I went to see her in hospital, she didn’t even know who I was. My dad was so frustrated because she kept asking him “ who is she?...” He eventually said, “ Sibu lets leave your mom is not well.” The next day I left for a school camp and when I returned on the Sunday there were a lot of people at my house. And you know what its like when something good happens a lot of people come over, in the same breathe when there’s something bad people also come over.

"When I got out the car I realized that one of the two things could be happening. Either my mom was back from hospital and everyone came to see her, or she had passed away and everyone had come to comfort us…When I got in the house I discovered it was neither of the two. But then about 20 minutes after I had arrived a call came in from the hospital for my dad and my mom had passed away… I wanted to know what had happened and asked but my dad said I was too young to understand what was going on and that one day things would come together I would understand what it is that was going on in the world.

"Today as much as I want to blame my dad for everything that had happened, I can’t forget how incredible he was. He became everything to me, my mom and dad. I remember the first day I had my period, he freaked out so much you would have thought that I was pregnant. As close as my dad and I were, my brother and my father weren’t getting along at all. Like they were on each other’s backs. It was so crazy that I’d even say to my brother “ bra what are you doing?” because he would go out of his way to upset my dad. My brother is 8 years older than me; my mother had two miscarriages between us. Like my dad was doing his best to provide for us, I was a spoilt brat I got what I wanted within reason. I went to a very good school in Cape Town where the requirements were a certain aggregate and also to have some sort of provisional type colours. Anyway things were going really well and I had just had my sixteenth birthday party. It was really weird because at that time a lot of kids were getting pregnant, I wouldn’t say it was a trend it just wasn’t a disgrace to be like 15 unmarried and pregnant. The following year I was going to grade 11 and my dad fell ill. For four years from 1996 to 2000 he would take a handful of pills to the point where I knew what pills he took and at what time of the day. Still he was fine he went to work when I went to school.

"I remember I would literally get the morning pills and giving them to him, then the afternoon ones after school and the evening ones. I would ask what they were and he would say they were just multi-vitamins to keep the body strong or whatever. January he fell ill, the year I was entering into grade 11.He passed away a month later on the 24th February. Same thing as my mom. So now I was thinking, “what the hell is going on?” Again I asked my aunt and my brother and again no body would come out and say anything. Up until I was in a taxi one day, coming home from school .Now remember I had told you my dad was a respected member in the community a preacher, a teacher an inspector for the department of education. Everyone knew me as my fathers daughter, I used to go everywhere with him. Anyway back to the taxi, there were these two ladies sitting in the front next to the driver and they never saw me.

"My father’s funeral had been two weekends before. The ladies were having a conversation you know the general taxi gossip, then my fathers funeral came up. It had been one of the biggest that my small township had seen in a very long time. So the one lady said to the other that it was so touching and the other one said “do you know what killed him?” and the other said “no what?” and the lady was like “ It was aids, he had infected his wife as well remember a couple of years ago she died.” I sat there thinking what was going on. I actually missed my stop and went as far as far as that taxi’s route then I had to walk all the way back home.

"That walk back was so traumatizing. When I got home my brother was sitting there totally unaware of what I had just found out… I went crazy and was shouting at him pissed off because he never told me. He said he was trying to protect our father because our father didn’t want me to know. All the time that he was angry with my father back then it was or because at some point my father had told my brother what had happened to my mother, so it was my brothers way of retaliating to my dad for what he had done to my mother. Because to my brother it was like my mother didn’t have to die and my dad’s promiscuous ways had cost her, her life. Of course I was so angry and didn’t want to believe what he was saying. I kept saying that he was lying and not telling the truth, because I didn’t think my dad could ever do that. Then it kind of just hit, and I knew it was true. When I calmed down my brother sat me down and told me that my dad had gotten infected because he was unfaithful and had, had an affair. He then infected my mother, she died first, and that’s how the story went.

"At this stage in my life I am in the second last year of high school, the most important year of my entire school career. I hated anyone who reminded me who my father was; I hated my father, my surname. I went awol, my brother did what he could to get me back on track. I was really struggling I just wanted to belong whenever I found a guy who looked like he could look beyond, my skinny frame and double lens glasses I would just stick to him, no matter how the relationship was. I dropped out of sports because my father had been my main motivation he was the one who literally rushed me from swimming to modern dancing to netball, especially after taking the package from the education department he had a lot of time, so when he died I was like screw that. I miraculously passed matric, like if anyone asked me how I achieved it I don’t know because I don’t remember sitting down and saying “its my finals now I am going to study for two weeks” I failed maths though as a result.

"2001 I matriculated and 2002 did what most people do in the township of they don’t know what they want to do with their lives or couldn’t study further what whatever reason, I sat on the street corner. Can you imagine what kind of crap you get up to, on the street corner? The things you think of doing? The things that you actually do? So one day a friend of mine said that they were looking for a motivational speaker at the Love-Life Youth Centre that had just opened. Now my experience in the township with the youth centres was pretty much like they are here today and gone tomorrow. I wasn’t keen. It tool my friend three months to convince me, eventually I was like I have nothing better to do. Also I think deep down there was some strand in my body that actually thought there must be more to me than what I am doing now.

"I started to enjoy it, children would come to me, two or three days after I had spoken and be like “ thank you so much for your message, I was being raped by my father for the past three years, hearing you speak taught me so much” or “ I am twelve and pregnant...” You must understand that when the word got out about my fathers status people started attaching me to the virus, I had some friends whose parents told them to stay away, because I looked like I was sick, I behaved like there was no tomorrow. Even people who were once my father’s friends had turned their back on my brother and I, because they had their own family problems to deal with. So when I started becoming an asset to the very same community than less than a year ago was my enemy, seeing this kids changing their lives, it was awesome. I then became a ‘Groundbreaker’ in the company Love Life, and in my fourth or fifth month I was spotted by the CEO of the company and started going everywhere with him. After travelling around the country and even overseas, I represented South Africa in Brazil at a Youth Summit; I represented Love Life and Africa at an Aids summit in Bangkok. I also got to go to places in South Africa that aren’t even on the map and met people with extraordinary stories.

"It was then that I realized that I had been complaining for nothing though my brother and I were Aids orphans he could still provide for us. I was part of a project that was called women on the move and had to speak at a campus. After I did my speech a grey haired man came to me and said,” If you ever feel like leaving Love Life I have a job for you”. I had no clue who it was and besides I had finally found my place in the work I was doing, my CEO came to me and asked me what the man had said, so I told him that he had offered me a job. He then asked me “ Do you know who that is?” I was like “no”. Turns out it was Richard Branson. Still I wasn’t moved. Two weeks later Richard then through my previous boss invited me to New York, we hung out with Elton John, Sharon Stone and many others. Again he offered me a job, but was very clear I would have to live in the U.K or the U.S.

"At this point my work was exploding I wasn’t willing to leave it yet. I then got invited by to the G8 Summit; because he felt that before he came to Africa he had a picture of Africa and the world needed to see the other side. I went to the MTV London show; there was a panel with Bob Galdorf, and the likes. Tony Blair was there too and he with everyone else including the kids from the other parts of the world were on about what a basket case the African continent was and trying to figure out how to help it. Then almost as an after thought lets give the young girl from South Africa a chance to say something. I then said, “I don’t want your aid and I don’t want your job. If you are going to sit around a table and decide on my future back home in Langa, that’s not going to work”.

"I then got invited to go to the G8 summit in Scotland, that for me was for me the biggest moment in my life. Sitting with people who supposedly smart enough to change the world and here they were listening to me a 21-year-old girl. What I had to say may not have changed what went on to decide and do, but it showed them the other side of Africa, that we weren’t a bunch of basket cases, we weren’t loosing our minds, we weren’t all dying of aids and we weren’t all begging on the streets. Yes we have poverty and all those social ills, but that’s not all that we are. At that point I decided to take Richards offer because my core had moved from speaking just for and to South Africa to Africa. Still the job was too much I was twenty-two years old and CEO of Virgin Unite, a new division for one of the biggest corporations in the world. I called Richard and said it was too much and I wasn’t feeling my impact like I had before. Now I am the CSI Manager of Virgin Active South Africa, and its so fulfilling. I can measure my impact. At some point in my life I was on the receiving end of charity and now I am on the giving end. But I was at some point in my life on the receiving end of charity and now I am on the giving end. I know what its like to have people throw cheques in your face I wont do that, I understand both sides so well. So I do my job with dignity not for me, but for the people who are still on the receiving end of charity."


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Louis Bolling (For Dazed & Confused : Japan)

In The Words of
The Coach: "In 1993 on what appeared to be a random day, I was informed by a friend that 'my man' has AIDS. I found out that the person he was speaking of was Arthur Ashe and I was dumbfounded. I was curious to know more about the disease that I thought only affected those that lived promiscuous lives. So when I found out how he had contracted the disease, blood transfusion, my curiosity grew. I have always been a curious mind and even in the face of such devastation my mind wanted to learn more. So I sought out ways to learn about the disease, primarily through sports programs or initiatives that involved sport with the ultimate hope of seeking ways to bring awareness and prevention. I've volunteered with organizations hosting fundraisers to support their respective awareness initiatives in various US cities. Arthur Ashe's legacy encompasses so much more than HIV/AIDS and I wanted to personally contribute to his legacy.

"Now living in South Africa, being one of the most recognized countries with an HIV/AIDS problem and my interests in tennis, marrying the two wasn't a challenge. As a result of communicating with his widow, I am now inspired to work with Nkosi's Haven and have an interest in enhancing the lives of their youth through sporting activities. My only real connection to HIV/AIDS is through Arthur Ashe, as I see it. I know of friend's relatives that have been infected; however their stories weren't personal to me. I know to many people it may seem like hmm sport and the fight of this virus, but getting young people to have an alternative to life and greater interests and ultimately just playing and seeing their bodies in a better light, I feel plays a role however small in keeping kids off the street and seeing the world in a different light. I guess what I am saying is that we all have our little part to play and while what I do wont make a UNICEF bill, or whatever it still doesn’t make it insignificant. There are different levels and stages to every fight, this is one level to the fight against HIV/Aids."


Friday, May 11, 2007

Felicity Thomas (For Dazed & Confused : Japan)

In The Words Of
The Counsellor: "I work a nine to five at a bank but my heart is with people, I have a heart to help people through this and let them know they aren’t alone. I am like their friend, even though it starts from a sad place in their lives. I used to be a full time counsellor but I haven’t been as healthy as I would like. What happened was that in December 2004 I gave birth to my youngest boy and almost died, I am so grateful because God had a reason for me to still be alive. I am still there for youngsters that need counselling, my passion and heart is for young people. I still do what I can to reach out to our youth in our Church where I would talk to them; sometimes all people want is for someone to care enough to find out where they are at in their lives how they feel. That’s how I see my role. So everyone has a story as to why they do what they do. This is mine: I gave birth to a beautiful daughter before I got married. I had been in an abusive relationship; I knew I had to do something to help myself.

"My first choices weren’t the right ones, but thank God He was there for me still. I then decided to start off with a six week counselling course at Care. While trying to find a way to heal myself I found that I could help other people. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it. So when I worked with Care, they would call me if they had any clients to see. The lady that I worked through at Care relocated to another area of the country and today I am not certain if the organization still exists. Anyhow I then started working with Westbury Aids Support Groups, which is our local township. There I started counselling more with people that had HIV/Aids. Recently I have two friends who told me their status, they are HIV positive. They are the ones that I live for now. I cant lie, its hard, when the people who aren’t well anymore are your friends, to be very honest it took me a long time to accept it, but God has given me the strength that I need. My one friend I counsel and the other I am just a friend to. I have worked with many different HIV/Aids positive people, I am just thankful that many of the ones I have counselled haven’t died.

"But I do remember this one lady I counselled that touched my heart. I would go there to her house after work and she would just want peanut butter on bread. I got some of my friends who are intercessors to come and pray with her and led her to Jesus Christ. The ultimate is the soul that needs restoration and only God can give that. The saddest part: I lost my nephew at the same time I lost my patient and that was the hardest for me. I did not really have time to say good-bye to her. When I came back from the funeral of my nephew in Knysna I heard she also passed on. I then did not want to go on, I remember thinking that if this was how it felt to loose someone dear to you to HIV/Aids, something you can’t see, then I didn’t want to go on. After thinking a lot I decided that I would get professional help so that I could go back to helping people. Its hard still, but I know that I am doing what I should be, however hard or challenging it might be, I have a heart for people..."


Andile Carelse (For Dazed & Confused : Japan)

In The Words Of
The Leading Lady: "Personally I feel that everyone is speaking on our behalf as Africans. When are we going to be given the chance to talk about how we want to stop this issues like HIV/Aids in Africa? Take for example the Live8 show. I am sure the intentions were good but it was a slap in the face, a huge mess like money is being thrown around to Africa. The Africa leg of it seemed like it was an after thought, like “Oh yes lets have an Africa leg of it because that’s who we are raising money for”. Yes we have HIV and sexual violence but we cant be defined by our problems we also have lawyers and great thinkers who are capable of helping direct the future of the continent. Though to the rest of the world the efforts made by African leaders to meet together and form African organizations may not seem so significant, I think it’s awesome because we need our leaders to speak to and for us. We have to take charge, because too often the belief is that Africa is sitting with folded arms waiting for help. Not true at all. From a personal place as a young African woman, I don’t believe that all the things that have happened in my life, the sexual violence and having to take care of people who died from HIV aids was just so that I could experience pain.

"I believe it was all so that I could take my place in this new movement that liberates us, so that I could be one of the voices that tells the world what we as a people are about. I spend three quarters of a year educating young people how to protect themselves from social ills and speak out to defend themselves. I am also glad that our current President is taking such an aggressive stance towards the economy, because you know what Africa needs? To be economically free and strong so that we can be better equipment to handle our own problems. I am not saying international aid is a bad thing and for the most part its still needed, but you know with that funding, a lot of time comes a tag with conditions. I spent a few months in the states taking part in a fellowship project, I was selected for the work that I do as a non-profit organization, Open Disclosure, in the fight against sexual violence which is in fact one of the causes of the spread of HIV in South Africa. I will never forget I was at this concert that was headed by Carlos Santana, in Boston. The aim of it was to raise money for HIV/Aids in South Africa.

"The truth is that the numbers that were given out to the public at that show were appalling, basically according to the stats that were repeated throughout the concert all forty-four million South Africans were dying! When in actual fact only a Quarter of the population is affected which is still too high, but what I am trying to say is that the numbers were fluctuated. Then as a South African I kept wondering I wonder where all this money raised will go? What hospice, what organization? No one could tell me the answer to that. If you are raising funds be responsible enough to research and find out who is already doing something on the ground and also make someone accountable for where the money is going that its being used effectively, don’t just give with a blind eye because that is hugely insensitive too. I hate to stay on the issue of funds, and please don’t misunderstand me. It’s just that unless you’ve been in the same room with someone who is in the last stages of this disease and you can smell the death and see the hopelessness in their eyes. Then spend sleepless nights long after they have passed not able to take the image out of your heart and out of your mind.

"Or unless you’ve been through a situation where you have lost someone close to you to this virus or live with someone in your life with the virus, its very easy and very dangerous for you to get up on a stage, being so far removed from the problem. There is a balance fine I agree and we all have to fight this together, but there is also the risk that is run of alienating the very people you are trying to help. I will never forget the Staying Alive concert, at the banquet it was awesome, I performed, Bongo Maffin and B.O.P did too. Alicia Keys attended the banquet, it was great. Now on the night of the main concert at Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town, I knew that I would never be a fan of Diddy’s. Simply because that night a few minutes before he went on stage he was busy with little coloured girls that you could see were 15 years old, right there with bottles of champagne.
As I walked passed him, our eyes met and I stood still not because I was star struck but I was shocked. Here he was about to go on stage to tell people to use a condom, to talk about safe sex and yet here he is with these young girls. I don’t even want to know what happened after the concert.

"So my thing is these companies might be well meaning but unless and only if they start involving people from these places and I am not doubting that we have people who will sell us out for their own good, but they still need to do a lot more research. Bono for example I love that man, he will spend say a month in a country to find out what is really going on, minus the cameras and all the rest and work from that way, without arrogance or a holier than though attitude. Africa has a lot of pain and ills, but at the core of it all, we are a proud people. I might not be HIV positive, but I am affected everyday of my life, because I live in this country, Thankfully at the time that I went through sexual violence HIV wasn’t so rampant. These days women not only worry about being raped but it’s also a case of them fearing a possible death sentence because the possibility of contracting the virus is very high. I speak out and do the work that I do because if I don’t say anything the world will continue to see Africa as a basket case and as an African living here I am in a position to understand and have more of a direct impact.

"This might sound crazy but I believe that the promise of the future lies in Africa. Africa just needs to get up and realize who she is, where she is, start taking care of her fellow brothers and sisters, get knowledge and mobilize herself.
In the face of HIV young Africans still are able to face it and say, even with this we will overcome. I believe that is what will happen."


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Criselda Kananda (For Dazed & Confused : Japan)

In The Words Of God's Favourite Daughter: "I have turned an HIV positive diagnosis into triumph by refusing to let the virus rule my life. I was seven months pregnant in 1998 when I discovered that I am infected with HIV. After a miscarriage at five months the year before, as a happily married woman at the time I was looking forward to the birth of my second child, to be a companion to my first little girl, who was six years old at the time. And then I got a phone call at work. It was my doctor, reporting on the routine tests he had done recently. “I’ve got good news and bad news,” he said. “The good news is that, all the tests bar one were fine - your baby is amazingly healthy, considering. The bad news is, your HIV test came back positive.” At the time, “It sounded like Japanese to this Xhosa woman. Who’s never been to nor does she understand the language. How can you say I’m well and alive, my baby’s healthy, but I’m going to die?” I dropped the phone in shock, then phoned back immediately. The doctor asked me to come in and see him.

In a state, I drove to the doctor’s office, thinking, what will happen to me? What will happen to my six-year-old? The first thing I asked the doctor was, “How long do I have to live?” the answer was bleak: two years maximum. As to the unborn baby, the doctor said if I insisted on having her (instead of an abortion at seven months!), she would live six months. It felt like it was the end of life, today, talking about the sense of fear and fate that is natural after such a diagnosis. For some time, I chased cures - if anyone said they had the answer, I would rush off and try it. But then my innate common sense and my nursing background kicked in, and I started to reflect on what I was doing and how I was speeding up my death by being negative.

First of all, I realised that life is a death sentence - we are all going to die. I started praying, and I went to my nearest church. The pastor there told me something that really helped me: he said, the one thing He knew well is that God loves me. I needed to know that - that somebody loved me. Like so many others at this stage, my head was full of self-blame and evil thoughts. Once these were cast out, I started to read up on the disease.

"My focus shifted to learning how to live with the virus. I needed to understand the virus, to know the monster I was dealing with. This made it possible to plan on how to live life with the disease. I am appalled that so many people are put on drugs the minute they receive their positive diagnosis. While I do not dismiss antiretrovirals - I say that of course, there comes a time when the immune system can no longer cope, and drug intervention becomes necessary - I have realised that there are few, if any, health workers out there able to tell you how to live a healthy life and avoid going on the drugs for as long as possible. It is very difficult to find information about living healthily with HIV. HIV can be managed, just like other chronic diseases and conditions. If one has hypertension - high blood - it doesn’t mean that person has or is going to have a stroke; if you have diabetes, it doesn’t mean you are going to lose a foot to gangrene.

"Health workers teach people with these conditions how to eat, how to exercise, and how to manage the conditions associated with their illness. Why, I ask, are we not doing the same for HIV? HIV = Aids = death. Doesn’t make sense to me. I have turned the acronym HIV around, making it stand for Health Is Vital instead. Today, I am well informed about how to eat well and manage any opportunistic infections that might present themselves, all of which, I point out, are very treatable and curable - if I don’t respond to them as the first signs of doom.

"The mind, I believe, has a profound impact on how we respond to a positive diagnosis and to living with the infection, so I have spent a lot of time working through my own personal issues. These include understanding the effect my own parents’ divorce had on her, and the effect of growing up as a black girl under apartheid. We were raised to know that, as a black person, you were a lesser being. I had to lean to love myself as God loves me.
This is a very sensible approach - there is a lot of scientific evidence that what you think and feel has a huge effect on how your body reacts and how healthy or sick you are. My husband and I unfortunately divorced during this period, but it had nothing to do with HIV. I am not willing to lay blame on anyone for my infection, because I understand that my sexual health is my responsibility. My ex-husband had not put a gun to my head and ordered me to marry him. I chose to marry him; I chose not to ask about his status.

Today, as a talk show host, managing director of positive-talk and as a motivational speaker, I pass on to others the lessons I have learned on the road to wellness:

  • I inform myself - Each of us, whether infected or not, needs to know as much as possible about the virus to keep ourselves well. We need to do the work as individuals, because everyone has different needs and different lives - for example, what do you need to do to protect yourself from infection (if you’re HIV-negative) or stay well if positive, when you’re in an abusive relationship? Your needs will be quite different from those of a happily married person, or someone who drinks too much, or someone who works far from their family, or someone who works for the police... everyone is quite different. You’re the only one who will know what information you need and what is relevant to you. The world has deliberately or naively empowered HIV to kill us through lack of knowledge.
  • Learn tolerance - We need to be tolerant of different views and beliefs. Don’t judge how others manage the disease. My way of dealing with things may be different from yours, but that does not mean it’s worse. Just ensure that you deal with it factually.
  • Fight poverty and hunger, which is one of the major indicators to whether people with HIV live or die - We’ve spent billions on HIV and AIDS, and YET people are still hungry. Poverty and hunger are a crime against humanity - all of us should work together to ensure that no family is without food.
  • Learn as much as you can about healthy lifestyles - We need concerted drive to inform people about good nutrition globally. I look into people’s gardens and I see more grass than vegetables. I believe we should grow our own food and not just rely on commercial farmers. We need to understand why we eat - not for fun or to fill our stomachs, but for health. We need to learn how to cook well, instead of cooking all the goodness out of our vegetables as we tend to.
  • Redress the imbalances in the world - This is a big goal, but without it, we will not be able to effectively tackle HIV, we need to narrow the gap between those who are well off and those extremely poor. The past has resulted in imbalances in literacy, in access to information, in knowledge, as well as in wealth and health. For those who are sitting pretty at the top of the pile at present, it is equally important: If you’re a manager, and you don’t tackle these issues now, in ten years’ time you’ll have no-one to manage. The legacy of our past has a lot to do with the way HIV has taken hold in the black community in particular. Black people were taught not to question authority. So now, when we are told we have two years to live, we believe it” instead of asking questions and finding out how we can live longer. We have not really acknowledged what the past has done to us - black and white. The world looks up to South Africa for its humanity, but how humane are we really? With all the rage and anger around, what kind of country are we breeding? True tolerance will come when we fix what Apartheid did in South Africa and then we can successfully educate.

"My philosophy on HIV is to focus on the three R's:
  • Be Responsible for your own life
  • Respect myself
  • Respect others.

nd I have also developed another meaning for Aids: instead of Acquired Immune Deficiency, I define it as: Am I Doing Something? It is my belief that we are all in this together, and we must all take responsibility for fighting the disease. My approach has definitely worked for me. Today, I glow with health. And my little daughter, the one who, the doctor said, had just six months to live? This year is in Grade Two and she is such a blessing in my life. She tested negative because I used information to make relevant choices. I seldom become ill, never been hospitalized nor am I on any medication. HIV is a viral infection like the many viruses we know, It can be managed, my life is proof!"


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lucky Mazibuko (For Dazed & Confused : Japan)

In The Words Of
The First Self-Declared HIV/Aids Columnist In Africa: "I can’t even remember why I decided to disclose. It was such a long time ago, but I think the basic reason was that I felt very selfish being HIV positive and not doing anything about it. Especially because people were dying, and suffering because of the stigma and silence around HIV/Aids. Naturally I am an introvert, it has always been awkward to me to keep things to myself; I love to talk, laugh and cheer people up. It felt so difficult that I could talk about everything else in my life except a specific thing, which wasn’t anything more than an illness. With that said it was a personal choice for me, and in the last two years there have been major campaigns about people disclosing. I don’t think that it’s a good idea that people should be coerced to disclose their status.

"For me what’s more important is that people should be caring for themselves, protecting themselves, eating well and accessing treatments. Rather than disclosing people should be eating well and accessing treatments, and just basically taking for the sake of it. Most times you find that people disclose for the wrong reasons. They tend to believe that if you disclose you might get a grant or a job or be protected in one-way or another. Which is not the case, I think disclosure is very important but anyone who does discloses must do so out of their own, un-pressured choice. I often am asked why it is that I decide to express myself through the paper. The way I see it media is extremely powerful as is the infection of HIV/Aids very powerful. So for me there were two options it was either I was going to write about my life or I was going to do it through radio, because the magnitude of the problem was so large I needed to come up with something that was equally if not more powerful than the problem. But I think that I needed to impact a mass of people rather than a small group.

A lot of things have come to light, some people say that the struggle now is economic and the fight against HIV/Aids. If you ask me, I feel that economy is very important whether you are positive or not. It’s important just to be okay so that you can access resources, even more so with HIV/Aids because you need to be able to acquire knowledge and medication, its very important that people should be economically free. I think for me that’s one factor that has liberated me, because I never rely on anyone to do anything for me. So when I disclosed I wasn’t desperate, I was already a businessman and was not forced by economic factors or any other factors, it was simply a natural decision to move from silence to this.

"What keeps me going is the love that I receive from people, like an ordinary poor person who would call me and say thank you, I was able to reach so and so. On the other hand I think that I get agitated and de-motivated by the politics of HIV/Aids. The in fighting between HIV/Aids based organizations, where there is a great sense of greed, professional jealousy. Talking about politics of late I feel that some of what has happened has been a great manipulation of people having access to the media. The one example that comes to mind is the controversy regarding the minister of health which in many ways was an unconscious expose of a journalists ignorance, but portrayed as embarrassing to the minister because if the minister talks about garlic and beetroot and other such things to an ignorant person who is supposed to be learned and that sounds like crap. But if you are aware of the importance of nutrition, and there isn’t a single person that will tell you that you can take anti-retrovirals without the correct nutrition.

"To add to that for me personally I lived with HIV for 15 years before I started taking anti-retrovirals, so for those 15 years it was nutrition that kept me going. Garlic for example is commonly taken to help prevent flu, and it boost your immune system and also to someone who has HIV/Aids, garlic is important because it helps deal with issues like those of oral thrush.
So perhaps the problem with the minister is that she had grown intolerant with journalists and members of the press and it became an argumentous relationship and was more damaging for the minister as opposed to the journalist because no one really cares about the journalist.

"So then the problem became that people started to associate HIV with the government and it became a people versus government and in essence it’s a personal matter. In this day and age for the most part you choose if you want to be HIV positive or not because there’s so much awareness. Like with regards to the work I have done I feel that I have achieved what I wanted. The biggest challenge for Africa and Africans in particular is an economic one because if you talk about the G8, The UN and all those other structures that are formed they are not just humanitarian organization. With their funding come very stringent conditions. So if the money is coming from Europe then the conditions will be European, then you find that some of the things we need are missed. Look at it this way in Europe when it comes to the fight against HIV/Aids the main focus is on anti-retroviral drugs because they’ve got the rest sorted out. They’ve got the food, the accommodation, and the sanitation. In that case for them it’s the treatment that’s vital and you understand because of where they come from. Bring that example back home and they fail to but realize that here we have to start from the bottom moving up.

"We need to provide food for people, we need to provide sanitation, and so then you find that access to treatment is urgent but not a priority people want food to eat. I mean if you were to go to an informal settlement now and ask if HIV/Aids were a priority they would probably tell you not. They need jobs, money, and food. HIV is somewhere around sixth or seventh position. If it were up to me I would make education the main priority in this fight. Give people more education so that they can understand how to manipulate the system and see that you can eat and you can know and you can move and achieve a lot by simply being enlightened. Something else that I think we ought to address is the fact that, most of the programmes we implement are not sustainable, because people mustn’t just be given food they must be taken to the pond and taught how to fish for themselves. But in general we don’t do that because the more enlightened people are the less thankful and grateful they become to us. Its like we want to be some sort of demi-gods. We live in a country and are constantly told – the economy is booming, there is a surplus- to the majority of people it feels like the money is doing nothing, and sitting somewhere far away.

"For instance now we have a massive problem with crime why isn’t there a massive campaign that seeks to address young people. We have millions of youth who are out of school doing anything, bored in the townships, who are likely to take drugs and are likely to take part in even more daring sexual activity and so this is the problem that we don’t seem to be having our priorities right. I am just thinking that in my teens when I was young and had a lot to do I would probably not be HIV positive .If I had the option of taking part in extra mural activities, could go to a cinema and all that sex would have been the last thing on my list. But I fear that young people are stagnant there’s nothing to do..."


Unathi Nkayi (For Dazed & Confused : Japan)

In The Words Of:
The Cousin: "Why don’t we talk about the pain we feel? /Talking day to day but its not real/ Why is it fine to hide our hurt behind our nervous smiles/ Faking joy that’s bliss all the meanwhile/ Resentments got me numb/ Trapped in burns I run/ I try so hard to free/ The disillusioned me/ I don’t wanna hide anymore/ My heart so young is sore/ I wanna hide within/ Why can’t we find the ease in inner peace? /When thoughts whirl round in a gentle breeze/ The talk of pain, my soul deep cleanse/ With this I make amends / Speak of my cries I try/ Laugh at my fears with tears/ Know I can truly smile/ And this is my reason why/ Why is it everybody looses heart/ The moment things get a little hard/ When life itself seems to darken as the days pass/ Cuts your soul into hardened bitter halves/ I’ve gotta talk about the pain I feel/ Feel the ease with my inner peace/ Coz it’s the breath I breathe/I don’t wanna hide anymore/ My heart so young is sore/ I wanna smile within” – Unathi Nkayi : I Don’t Want To Hide.

"To this day I am very grateful that my cousin was open and comfortable enough to disclose to the entire family about her status. She only told a few of us at first and then later told the rest of the family and instructed them to inform everyone. My family had mixed emotions when they found out. There were those who were saddened by the prospect of loosing her, so young and beautiful. But there are those who aren’t as knowledgeable as they should be regarding the virus, that are still in denial about the cause of her death. Some still say, “ AIDS is a white man’s disease designed to kill our people." When my cousin eventually passed away I never got the chance to mourn her death. I was on tour and finishing off the album when one suddenly one day I just burst out crying for hours on end. I found myself writing the first few lines of this song. Music became like therapy for me. I know that there are mixed feelings on all the messages that are sent out via media and concerts in the fight against HIV/Aids. And I guess things are changing slowly.

"But what we need to understand is that what mankind actual needs is a lifestyle change and this concerts and ribbons and messages though they play their role won’t change things over night. Each individual person around the world needs to be empathetic, realistic and mature enough to know that it’s imperative that we all fight the fight together. Right now with regards to the HIV/Aids pandemic, our generation is going through one of the biggest struggles in world history. One that won’t be solved by world leaders sitting down and negotiating over a round table. A war that will only be won with everyone doing his or her part. I am hopeful that just like generations who have lived before us, we will overcome this and win this fight. Personally as TV personality, Radio host, musician and proud young African, my personal tool in fighting HIV/Aids is “ To love myself enough to protect myself and preach until I loose my voice. My question is what is yours? We all have one..."