‘HIV has left deep emotional scars’ in her life, Tender told a gathering in Soweto, organized by the AIDS Consortium, a network of AIDS-related service organizations. But how does she deal with those scars? , a woman in the audience wanted to know.
‘I do sing. And when I sing, sometimes, that’s the only thing that heals me’ answered Tender before she belted into song rendering a spiritually soulful piece.
‘That’s how I heal my scars because there is no other human being, not even your own boyfriend, your own mother can tell what is happening inside here, but God knows what’s inside here’, she added.
Tender’s audience was a mix of old and young. But the young people in the audience did not take the opportunity to ask her any questions ‘ and that irked Tender so much that she went from being a singing sensation to rant at the youth.
‘Every weekend you are the ones who are at risk and you’re not asking any questions. What’s going on’? , she asked. ‘These women who are asking me questions are old. Yes, they have problems, but the people who have problems the most in South Africa are you guys who are going to school; you guys who don’t listen to your parents at home; you guys who think you know everything. I was there, too. I knew everything’, she chastised them to loud cheers from the older members of the audience.
At that a group of about five teenage boys hurriedly ran out of the hall. But many remained and asked questions of the Port Shepstone-born Tender.
A young woman stood up and said: ‘I want to know what is the worst painful moment in your life, which you experienced after you found out that you are infected’.
To which Tender answered: ‘The first painful moment was coming home from Jo’burg having lost weight’¦ having people point at me and say… This is not about HIV. It’s about people, my own community who think they are doctors, who think they know better than anybody. When I got off that taxi from Johannesburg I was a walking HIV/AIDS just because I’ve been in Jo’burg. That is painful. That is judging. Besides pointing fingers and telling me that I’m a whore from Jo’burg they had to go around and tell other people that ‘we think the reason she’s sick is because she was selling her body in Jo’burg’. Now I not only got HIV from sleeping around with so many people selling myself, I had to deal with the fact that my community thinks they know better than I do. And nobody came to me and asked me questions like: ‘So, where do you think you got it? How did you get it’? Maybe I could have told them the real thing to go around and spread’.
And so the questions went, revealing Tender’s heartache.
‘Before I went for Idols 2007, I was pregnant and I gave birth to a baby girl. Her name was Destiny. I called her Destiny because I thought me giving birth to her would be the end of me. When I conceived my child, it wasn’t planned. I had used a condom and it broke. My CD 4 count was 300-something, which was in no way possible for me to have a baby. But I told my doctor after he said we must terminate that, ‘I don’t believe in termination’. The least I can do is use the strength I have to give birth to the baby, so I leave a legacy. I carried my baby and she didn’t come to term. She came out on the sixth month. She was premature. She was tested HIV’negative. She lived with me for nine days and then she passed on. At the moment my viral load is undetectable. My CD 4 count has gone beyond 600 going for 700 and I’m very happy. With the man that I have in my life right now, we are planning on having a baby’.
Tender has certainly not given up on life and she’s determined to no allow her circumstances ruin her dreams.
‘I turned it around and said, ‘you know what? I’m going to make use of all these flaws’. I used all of the bad things that happened in my life, turned them around and mixed them with the voice that I have. And I have the tender moments right now’.
Her dream to release a CD is finally approaching. Her debut CD, titled ‘Tender moments’ is due out next month.