In-depth: Love in the time of HIV/AIDS

SOUTH AFRICA: Johanna Ncala: “People now are living their lives - they want to have babies.”

Photo: Laura Lopez Gonzalez/PlusNews
JOHANNESBURG, 13 February 2008 (PlusNews) - Johanna Ncala, 40, has been seeing the father of her 2-year-old daughter for four years, and admits that distance isn’t the only thing complicating her love life. Since she was diagnosed positive in 1993, Johanna has had to rethink relationships and what her status might mean to the men in her life.

I’m in a long-distance relationship: he’s in Mozambique, I’m in South Africa. We’re both activists so we don’t have time for each other.

It's not easy for a woman to get a man in general and it's worse when you're HIV positive. It's not easy for men to accept their status so you'll find that person you're telling you're HIV positive, he is also HIV positive but he doesn't want to accept it so he'd rather have negative women around him.... After my diagnosis I stayed single for a long, long time before I had a relationship. It was difficult for me to disclose to other people, so I told myself, ‘I don’t want to get involved, I need time just to find myself.’ It took me five years to disclose to anyone and, unfortunately, that’s when I met him.

We met at a regional workshop where we had all these activists coming together, and in the evenings we would go to the bar. That’s how we started talking and just knowing each other, but he didn’t disclose his status to me even though he knew I was positive.

At first, when I thought he was negative, I wanted to know, is he scared to sleep with me? It was seven months or so before he told me he was HIV positive. I don’t know, it’s difficult for a man, I don’t know why.

I was a medical technologist and I tested myself in 1993 for HIV. There was no hope in those days, but people now are living their lives - they want to have babies. When I was pregnant I would go to these workshops, stand up before everyone, and they would ask, “But, Johanna, how did you do it?”

I would always tell them that if they wanted to know they’d have to come and talk to me about it later. [Pregnancy] is scary for people, so we need to find a way of communicating these things, much like we have a problem of how to communicate the circumcision issue ...At the moment I’m developing a pamphlet about the reproductive rights of HIV positive people, and it talks about ways to get pregnant.

But it’s been four years (of long distance) and it’s becoming difficult for me. You want to make your relationship work if you find someone who accepts you and loves you...because where will I find someone else that understands me? I shudder to think what I would do if he told me he didn't love me anymore because I've tried everything in my power to make this relationship work.

Other OCHA Sites
United Nations - OCHA
DFID - UK Department for International Development
Irish Aid
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation - SDC