AIDS2016_logoBotlhale Mofokeng from Qwaqwa in the Free State says it was hard enough coming out for the first time as gay to his family but he never thought he would have to come out again to them as HIV positive.

“As a gay, one of the hardest thing you can do is to come out to your family and friends,” says the 26-year-old. “You face the possibilities of losing people who are very important to you because you don’t know whether they will accept you or not. After I came out as a gay, I never thought chance I would have to come out again about my HIV status.”

A year after revealing that he was gay, Mofokeng went for his first HIV test at his clinic.

“I wanted to be sure of my status since I was in a new relationship. But I was not worried. I felt like I was invincible and I figured that I had nothing to worry about.

Shocking news

“I then got the shocking news ever when my results came back positive. My heart stopped for seconds right there. I couldn’t believe it. I sat there and cried. The nurse sat with me trying to reassure me but I couldn’t hear a word she was saying since I was so hurt and emotional.”

Mofokeng left the clinic and went straight to a tavern where he downed two bottle of alcohol. Luckily, he also called his cousin and told her everything.

“My cousin came over and took me to our family doctor where we sat down and the doctor started explaining to me about CD4 count and he also ran some tests again.”

When he went home, Mofokeng decided to tell his family right away. Luckily, his mother promised to always support him.

“I am very supportive of my son so is the rest of the family and his friends. We have accepted him the way he is. I make sure that he eats healthy and take his medication,” said Mapuleng Mofokeng

But things did not go well with Mofokeng’s then partner: “I told my boyfriend, who is negative. He didn’t take the news well and ended things with me on the spot.”

Mofokeng is on ARVs and his viral load is undetectable.

I am not the virus

“I eventually met the man of my dreams who supports me wholeheartedly. He isn’t ashamed of my status and neither am I because I have learned that ‘I am not my status, but the man I make myself into every day. I am not just HIV positive am me’.”

Mofokeng’s boyfriend, Eric Dinosi, is also HIV positive and this makes it easier for both of them.

“We exercise and eat healthily, and we even attend support groups meetings together. That’s how much I love him,” said Dinosi.

Malefane Moloi, from the loveLife support group that Mofokeng attends, said family support is really important: “Botlhale is getting full support from their families, and we believe that the first support a person should get is from home. I usually see Botlhale at most of our meetings and he is very outspoken about his status and he also encourages people to live healthily. Most of the people in the meetings love Botlhale. He is so strong and also motivates people living with HIV and being gay.”

HIV very high

HIV prevalence is high among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the three largest cities of South Africa, according to a 2014 study by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), called the Marang Men’s Project.

Almost half the men in Durban (48,2%) were HIV positive, while in Johannesburg over a quarter (26,8%) of the men tested HIV positive while in Cape Town, this figure was over one-fifth (22,3 percent).

In men over the age of 25, HIV prevalence was extremely high, with seven out of 10 Durban men testing HIV positive. The research was conducted among 925 men who have sex with men (some of whom don’t identify as gay).

Allanise Cloete, the project director of the Marang Men’s Project, said: “Previous research has shown that public health-care services in South Africa are generally not welcoming of MSM. Indeed, our results reveal that MSM in all three study cities prefer testing for HIV at gay-friendly health centres as opposed to public health-care facilities. These findings call for installing greater sensitivity in health-care workers to be non-judgmental in providing HIV prevention services to MSM.” – Health-e News.