HIV and the clergy ‘ Part 2Living with AIDS #184
Reverend Christo Greyling, HIV/AIDS advisor for World Vision in Africa, speaks further with Health-e News about how he has lived with HIV for 20 years and how living with the virus has affected his relationship with his wife of 16 years who remains HIV negative.
Duration: 4min 04 sec
KHOPOTSO: Reverend Christo Greyling has been HIV positive for 20 years, following an eye operation. When he first discovered he had HIV in 1987, the news almost shattered him. He thought he should end the relationship but his then girlfriend, Liesl, refused and insisted that she loved him no matter what. They married in April 1988, are still together today and Liesl remains HIV negative. The question is: After sixteen years of marriage and sex how is this possible?
REV. GREYLING: That’s (an) important question in the sense that very often faith leaders and people of faith have a very negative connotation about condoms. For me, that is the saving grace. That’s what kept Liesl negative. We realised from the first moment that we got married that we’ll have to use condoms all the time to protect her. And we did. And after 16 years we’ve shown that with the correct and consistent use of condoms you can prevent infection’¦ We also took all the necessary other precautions in terms of blood contact, and so on’¦ But, the main thing we had to make an adaptation in our lifestyle is just to make sure that Liesl does not get infected sexually.
KHOPOTSO: Reverend Greyling says he and his wife are symbols to show that HIV is preventable and that condoms have a very important role to play.
REV. GREYLING: It is not an instrument of promiscuity only, but (it’s) just a piece of latex that becomes an instrument that can save a life.
KHOPOTSO: Until recently, HIV infection meant there was little hope of having a child. And the Greylings lived with the near certainty that they would never be able to raise a child of their own.
REV. GREYLING: (Laughs) Well, that was never a possibility ‘ not even a faint possibility ‘ because we didn’t want to take the risk of having Liesl becoming infected as well. But with the recent research, which indicates that there is a correlation between the number of viruses that’s in the person’s blood and the risk of transmitting the virus, we realised that if I would go on antiretrovirals and pushed my viral load down to a undetectable level, then the chances of transmission become very low. We didn’t do this very lightly. We were reading for about three years on this. We did a lot of research (and) went to a lot of medical doctors. I eventually found somebody who had a similar situation like me ‘ who are both doctors ‘ where the wife is also negative and the husband is positive.
He’s also haemophiliac. They decided they’re gonna take that risk’¦ So, we did that. For six months I was on antiretrovirals; got my viral load down; had both of us checked for fertility; made sure what Liesl’s ovulation cycle would be like – when she would be in the most fertile time; and then we decided we will only try for three months; and if it didn’t work in three months, fine. First month, bang! Liesl fell pregnant. And now we have little Anneka, which means Grace. She’s now one-year-and-three-months-old.
KHOPOTSO: Reverend Greyling had previously been on antiretrovirals in 1990 but stopped. Seven years later he resumed treatment and stopped again because of
side-effects. In April 2002 he took a different regimen of drugs not because he needed them immediately, but due to the fact that the couple wanted to try for a baby. But now, he says he will remain on the drugs because once one makes that choice, it is a life-time decision. Both his wife, Liesl and daughter Anneka, remain HIV negative.
REV.GREYLING: We tested Liesl during the process and just shortly after we heard she’s pregnant. We waited for two-three months; had the test done to see that she’s negative. And we knew then that if Liesl stays negative, which she did, then Anneka will stay negative as well. And she is’¦ It’s not necessary that she goes for testing. The reason for that is that the virus is not in the sperm cell itself, but in the seminal fluid around the sperm cell. So, if Liesl didn’t become infected the little embryo that starts after fertilisation is HIV negative.
KHOPOTSO: Are you planning on having any more babies after Anneka?
REV. GREYLING: Ask the wife. Ha-ha-ha. At this stage that’s a open question. We haven’t cleared that out in our own minds yet.
E-mail Khopotso Bodibe