Finding out about my HIV status at 13
AIDS2016: Being a teen is hard enough, but for Bongani Radebe, it also meant discovering that he had been born with HIV
I am 19 years of age and live in Bohlokong, Bethlehem in the Free State. I only knew that I was HIV positive at the age of 13. I was always given medication by my mom but she would tell me that am suffering from a heart disease only to find out that I have been living with HIV.
Later that year, my mother decided to come clean to me and told me the truth after I have asked her so many questions. She told me that I was at the right age and all grown up enough to know. She even told me that I got the infection from her.
I felt so sad and angry because I wanted to be like other children. My parents sat me down and told me never to tell anyone because people will began to talk and children will not want to play with me. I agreed to do so, but deep down I was so hurt. I had lots of questions in my mind: “How will I live? Will I ever get a girlfriend? Would I tell her?
Getting a girlfriend
I was worried about getting a girlfriend, meeting girls in the future because before knowing my status, I was into girls at school, flirting. Now I am afraid to even date one.
I even used to skip my medication but now am always taking my pills. I have learnt that it is important for me to take my medication. I want to tell people about my status but I won’t because I feel like they will tease me and change towards me but I think I should just start of by telling my true and close friends and the right girl I will find in the future.
I feel comfortable talking to my close family and doctor about my situation but I have not told my friends. They always ask me about the pills I take every day but I would just lie.
I am very happy that my mother is so strong and very supportive through all this.
At the age of 19 I had been brave and gained self-confidence and learnt to live with my illness. I even told my girlfriend who is HIV negative and she stood by me till today.
* Interview by Bontle Motsoeneng