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Speaking freely on HIV

These testimonies were gathered from members of HIV social movements in South Africa and Namibia. They highlight the powerful role social movements can play in tackling HIV and AIDS – helping to connect people and bring about inclusive social change.

Speaking freely on HIV testimonies

South Africa | Gerald: sharing the burden

Gerald had a traumatic childhood: “I had to cope with a lot of things, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, from a very young age”. At 18 he had a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide after the mother of one of his children walked out on him: “I saw it was the end of my life”….

South Africa | Jo-Ann: joining the struggle

Jo-Ann and her daughter were both diagnosed HIV positive on the same day: “I will never forget that day – for me it feels like it was yesterday.” At first she found it hard to accept, but then “I realised I have a child who needs me and I am still young, my life will…

South Africa | John: a loving family

John grew up in Cape Town after his family left Malawi. He values the close relationship formed with his parents during his childhood:”I wish many children would have such a relationship with their parents”. His wife – with whom he had his only child – died after a long-term illness with tuberculosis. John himself was…

South Africa | Nomafu: encouraging others

When she became pregnant, Nomafu discovered that her boyfriend was already married. She was advised to take an HIV test and describes the shock of finding out she was positive:”I didn’t eat. I slept the whole week.” Her family was supportive, and a group at her clinic enabled her to become a mentor, helping other…

South Africa | Patrick: beauty in equality

Patrick works for Engender Health, promoting its Men as Partners programme, which is “designed to involve men in action against all forms of gender violence and its extreme partner, HIV/AIDS”. He tells of a background dominated by violence, growing up in a family in which “I was taught to beat my sisters, discipline them as…

South Africa | Sylvia: anger to acceptance

Sylvia became pregnant aged 16 and left school early. In 2001 she married and had a son. But the following year he developed a skin rash and tested positive for HIV. Sylvia was diagnosed with HIV the same day. Her husband’s ex-girlfriend died of full-blown AIDS a month later. To start with, Sylvia “did put…

Namibia | CJ: fulfilling our potential

CJ grew up with her grandmother and says her “childhood was something very wonderful”. She dropped out of school when diagnosed HIV positive and, although she hasn’t changed as a person, “I have had to live a different life: a life of living positively”. She has found strength in her Christian faith, and benefits from…

Namibia | Karolina: bringing me peace

Karolina was diagnosed with HIV in 2004, and received counselling that has helped her to accept her status. Her partner died a month prior to the interview and his refusal to be tested for HIV is still very much on her mind: Just “before he passed away I decided to take him to the hospital…

Namibia | Jeni: leaving stigma behind

Jeni has lived with HIV for 15 years. She found out her status after her daughter became ill and tested positive at 3 months of age. At first she suffered stigma and rejection:”I was so emotionally hurt”. She sought help from the churches, but found their message negative: “I started to believe God was punishing…

Namibia | Maria: information is essential

When Maria was diagnosed with HIV her family rejected her. “They wanted to separate themselves from me.” And although she received some help from her priest and neighbours, she still felt isolated. “In the north [of Namibia]… there was no support group, there was nothing, you keep your status within yourself…” Maria moved to Windhoek…

Testimonies

South Africa | Gerald: sharing the burden

South Africa | Jo-Ann: joining the struggle

South Africa | John: a loving family

South Africa | Nomafu: encouraging others

South Africa | Patrick: beauty in equality

South Africa | Sylvia: anger to acceptance

Namibia | CJ: fulfilling our potential

Namibia | Karolina: bringing me peace

Namibia | Jeni: leaving stigma behind

Namibia | Maria: information is essential

Key themes

Introduction to the project

Hopes and visions

Challenging the government

Working with the media

Support through community

Why join… or start a movement?

Living with HIV

Gender dimensions

Identity, culture and context