Pleasure, Johannesburg

In the late 1990s I wanted to purchase a house and was told that I needed to have an insurance policy. When I went to purchase that policy they said, “You need to test for AIDS.” I had the test done, no problem, but when I went to collect the result they said they couldn’t give me the policy because I had AIDS. It was like a bombshell to me. I did not expect it.

I went back to my boss to explain. The people with whom I was working, they started distancing themselves from me. Eventually my employer asked me to leave. The news spread that I had AIDS and my friends started to run away. I didn’t have support from my family. I was chased away from my two children. I had to start another life. I lived alone, without friends. At that time, around the 1980s through the late 1990s, HIV and AIDS were so scary. No one wanted to associate themselves with people with AIDS. Even myself. I could not accept myself as a person living with AIDS.

In the early 2000s you started to see education programs and so on—I think these assisted a lot. Through treatment literacy programs, I learned about the lifecycle of the virus, how the virus operates in your system, how to control it. Me and the virus, we need to have a clear understanding. If the virus kills me today, the virus is going to die. I’ve made a bond with the virus to say, “Spare my life and I’ll spare yours.”

About Through Positive Eyes

Through Positive Eyes [] tells the story of HIV/AIDS at the end of the third decade of the epidemic, when potent antiretroviral medication has been devised, but when treatment access is far from universal. Through Positive Eyes is an attempt to address key themes of the AIDS epidemic: widespread stigma, extreme social inequality, and limited access to lifesaving medication. The project is based on the belief that challenging stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS is the most effective method for combating the epidemic—and that art is a powerful way to do this. HIV-positive people take part in this unique initiative, creating powerful personal photo essays. From these images, we create local and international advocacy materials including exhibitions, short films, and website. Read more about Through Positive Eyes at

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