Tender Mavundla shot into the spotlight two years ago when she disclosed her HIV-positive status as a contestant in the music talent show, Idols. She won the hearts of many fans and got to the top four in Idols. While competing for stardom, the now 28-year old singer took the country by surprise when she revealed that she was HIV-positive.
‘I came out on Idols in 2007 because I have a sister who is younger than me. I have cousins who are younger than me. They are living with me. The reason I came out is because I was once that age and I went through what I went through and I’m here because of that. So, if I can tell her, ‘don’t step on that’’¦ Rather she be told and then go step on it because they are thick-headed than saying, ‘I stepped on it because nobody told me’. The least I’ve done is that I’ve given them the awareness’, Thandi says explaining why she chose to disclose her HIV-positive status publicly.
Talking to young people about HIV is something very close to her heart. But she’s also aware that it can be difficult getting through to young people.
‘I hate it so much when they don’t want to listen because they are the ones who go out there and have the night life, (they) are the ones who are roaming the streets dating married men, they are the same people who are out there trying to figure out where they stand in life and they are the ones who are very, very much at risk and that’s why I want to tell them: ‘Listen. Listen. Ask me anything, talk to me, I will tell you where I’ve been because I know where you’re going, I know how you feel. They feel like they know everything. They feel like they can do anything, they can take over the world. I felt the same way too. And I feel ‘if I can just stop them’. And I can’t stop all of them. But the least I can do is try’, she said.
The Port-Shepstone-born singer says that much of what she warns young people about today, she ‘lived through herself in her teen years’. She was 20 when she was diagnosed with HIV. At the age of 17 she had come from Kwa-Nositha in Port Shepstone in KwaZulu-Natal with no matric to seek fame and fortune. She was armed with only her singing talent. Life in the bright lights of Johannesburg brought her new friends, who had many influences on her character. Tender hopes that by speaking out, she might just change the life of one or a few teenagers to prevent them from catching HIV.