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 Saturday 14 June 2008
 
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Denis Matwa: "HIV was something of gay, white men...not for myself"
June 2008 (PlusNews)

Photo: Denis Matwa
Denis Matwa: "I used to be a womaniser"
CAPE TOWN, Denis Matwa, 36, has turned his life around since he discovered he was HIV-positive eight years ago. At one time a heavy drinker and womaniser, he became an AIDS activist and is now involved in an intervention by South Africa's Medical Research Council targeting "sugar daddies" - men who are at least five years older and materially better off than their casual partners.

"I worked as a temporary teacher for a couple of years and then I got shingles. I asked the doctor what causes shingles and he said it's a very rare nervous infection. It normally happens to people who have a compromised immune system, especially people with HIV. So that's when I decided to test, in June 2000. Sadly, I found I was HIV-positive.

"I used to be a womaniser - I had many women to sleep with. At that time, HIV for me and my peers was something of gay, white men. I wasn't ever thinking of it for myself.

"On top of that, I was a university student most of the time I was womanising, so I thought that I'm not sleeping with dirty women, and that's what was deceiving me - I thought if a woman was clean outside, she does not have HIV.

"When I got the news that I was living with the virus, I was shocked, terribly shocked, and as a result I was not sleeping at all, so I had to drink every day. I was not employed by then. Living with HIV became just another thing, and I needed to drink away my sorrows.

"Even then, I wasn't using condoms; I was telling myself that I'm not going to die alone. I would get a woman each and every time I go to the shebeen [informal bar].

"Women [in Eastern Cape, which is much more rural] are not independent like women here [in Cape Town], who sometimes have resources to buy their own booze. Women on that side [in Eastern Cape], they depend on men.

"It went on like that for the rest of 2000 and 2001, until a friend of mine, who was the first person I disclosed to outside of my family, told me: 'There's this group of white guys who likes to wear HIV Positive t-shirts; I'm going to find out from them how you can get help'.

"Apparently, he called TAC [Treatment Action Campaign, an AIDS activist group], so that's when I came to Cape Town to get help, to have access to a proper health system.

"I was still in denial, and I was feeling offended if people were talking about HIV - maybe they were talking about me. I didn't know anyone else with HIV, so I felt alone until I went to the clinic and saw this woman who was doing treatment literacy work for TAC, and I engaged her about the work she was doing and befriended her and we fell in love.

"It was then that my horizons started to open up and [I began] to see that it was wrong, actually, to have multiple partners, because it was insulting to women. It was too late for me because I was already infected, but I told myself this was my chance to help remedy the situation.

"I'm divorced now. I have changed relationships three or four times already because they do not have the qualities I'm looking for - I'll notice that this one is a gold-digger, or this one is not interested in reading, and then I'll drop her.

"I prefer women who are mature, but most of my friends still fall for younger women. They are not demanding, they do not wield power, they are not dominant; unlike older women, who, if they say, 'no', they mean 'no'. Younger women don't work most of the time, so they depend on males to provide."

ks/he

[ENDS]

[The above testimony is provided by IRIN, a humanitarian news service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.]

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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.