Military ambitions crushed by HIV diagnosis

(U.S. Army Africa photo by Spc. Taryn Hagerman)
Written by Bontle Motsoeneng

The need to do constant rigorous exercise is one reason the South African Defence Force does not employ people living with HIV, dashing the hopes of this Free State man.

A healthcare worker draws a drop of blood for an HIV test. Credit: UNICEF Ethiopia/ 2014/ Pudlowski

A healthcare worker draws a drop of blood for an HIV test. Credit: UNICEF Ethiopia/ 2014/ Pudlowski

Molefi Moloi (23) was strong, fit and hoping to join the army when he was diagnosed HIV positive – an event that completely changed the course of his life.

Moloi, who is from QwaQwa in the Free State, applied to join the military, intent on becoming a soldier.

“I am very healthy and strong. I passed all the tests which I had to do, and even when I ran, I came eighth out of everybody. And then I went to do my blood tests,” Moloi said, explaining how he came to hear that he is HIV positive.

Shock, questions and realisations

“I couldn’t believe what the doctor told me. I tried to trace back my ways, but I couldn’t recall ever playing unsafe. It was such a shock and I could not think of when I might have become infected,” he said.

“For about two weeks my world was shattered – I didn’t even feel like eating nor bathing. I was always in my room. I was trying to understand how I could have become infected because both of my parents are negative. And I grew more confused as I thought hard about everything I had done,” Moloi said.

Then he remembered a girlfriend he had dated for a while who was sick. She told him she had cancer.

“I did not know she was lying to me about her status, and I should have been more careful and used protection,” he said, explaining how he finally realised how he had contracted the virus.

Family support and stigma

“I really thank my mother, because she was the first person I could reveal my status to. She was shocked at first, but she stood by me and supported me and is always advising me.”

Moloi’s father has since died, but his mother remains proud and supportive of her son.

“I had to live with this issue quietly and his father even passed away without knowing, because we were afraid that he would disown Molefi because we knew how he used to discriminate against people living with HIV,” said Matshidiso Moloi.

She is pleased that her son has now started speaking openly about his status and has joined some support groups.

Army exclusion and exercise

Moloi was declined entry to the army, and now works in retail.

Army chief Lieutenant General Vusumuzi Masondo said the South African National Defence Force did not employ people infected with HIV. One of the reasons was because soldiers are required to do constant rigorous exercise, which is not recommended for people with HIV. – Health-e News.

An edited version of this story was published in The Star

About the author

Bontle Motsoeneng

Bontle Motsoeneng is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from the Free State’s Thabo Mofutsanyane Health District.

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