Rugby hero Willemse wants to be HIV ambassador

‘€œI just got tested and it came out positive. For me that is, and negative for the disease. So, fortunately, I’€™m still negative,’€ said Willemse after the test.

For Willemse, it was his third HIV test but ‘€œevery time it feels like the first time’€.

‘€œIt’€™s almost like, for instance, in my game. You kind of know that you’€™re going to be picked for the Springbok team. But you sit there waiting for the announcement, not knowing what to expect.

‘€œOnly when your name is mentioned, then, you enjoy the moment because now you know that you’€™re there. Ja, it was quite good to know that I’€™ve beaten the disease once again,’€ said Willemse.

Willemse, who also plays for the Cats and Lions, said he had taken a Khomanani Pledge to take the HIV test to make a stand against ignorance and denial.

‘€œSome of us think that we’€™re too wealthy to get the disease and others think we’€™re too poor to get the disease. But, then, in the end we’€™re all stuck in the middle. And this time around I just thought ‘€˜look, Ashwin, just go and get tested yourself. Become an ambassador through acting’€™.’€

He hopes other young people will be encouraged by his example to go out and get tested too.

‘€œYoung guys and girls are having sex, and some of them under the influence ,and they don’€™t use condoms. It’€™s a reality. In fact, I think we’€™re underestimating the spread of the disease amongst our youth. That’€™s why I hope that they will be encouraged because me, myself, I’€™m still only in my early 20s. So, I hope that I encourage them to go and get tested and know their status.’€

Willemse acknowledged that he was very nervous to have an HIV test the first time round as he knew he’€™d had unprotected sex with ‘€œseveral ladies in the past and I was afraid that my past could catch up with me’€.

‘€œI was stressed out because I knew that it could go either way,’€ confessed Willemse.

‘€œIn my earlier days, I got caught up in the moment where you go out and you go on the booze. You get drunk off your feet that night.

‘€œYou only go out for two things: to have a good time, drink as much alcohol as you possibly can and, then, to pick up a woman. And sometimes you’€™re so caught up in the moment where you think that ‘€˜I don’€™t want to waste time putting on a condom because she might change her mind’€™.

‘€œAnd you end up doing it without a condom, only to realise when you wake up the next morning what you’€™ve done.’€

Willemse hopes that he has put his days of condom-less casual sex behind him.

‘€œI’€™d like to believe that I’€™ve grown up. I’€™ve done some mistakes, but now I’€™ve tried to correct my wrongs that I’€™ve done. I feel I’€™m a bit more mature than what I used to be. I look at life differently. I approach life differently. And I value life.’€

He believes that getting tested is one of the best things that he has ever done.

‘€œUltimately now, whether or not I’€™m going to be positive or negative for the rest of my life, is totally in my hand.’€

He urged everyone, especially young people, to have an HIV test.

‘€œIt really touches me that people die on a daily basis and only because of ignorance. I think everyone must go and get tested, especially the youth.

‘€œWhen you are younger, you live as though you still have 50 more years to live. You party, you have sex. You just party, have sex

Willemse says he was 13 or 14 when he first had sex but is disappointed because he ‘€œcan’€™t remember what it was like or what I felt’€.

‘€œTo all the young girls and the young boys, try to always allow sex to be valuable. If you start at an early age, it loses its value after a while.’€

For Willemse, sex should be something to be savoured not squandered on strangers.

‘€œWhat makes sex special is the fact that, even though you lust for it, you are willing to step back and say ‘€˜I’€™m not going to do it now because it’€™s not the time now. I’€™m not married yet. I don’€™t have a condom on me. I don’€™t know you. Let us first go and get tested because you don’€™t know me’€™. That is when sex becomes special.’€

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