In-depth: Love in the time of HIV/AIDS
SWAZILAND: Vincent Mdluli, "HIV has ended more romances than anything else"
Photo: James Hall/IRIN
"That is called romance"
Manzini, 1 December 2008 (PlusNews) - Vincent Mdluli, 24, lives in Manzini, Swaziland, and works as a carpenter's assistant. He told IRIN/PlusNews what happened when he found out his girlfriend was HIV positive, and how the discovery changed his life.
"My friend, do you know that HIV has ended more romances than anything else? A wife tells a husband she's HIV and he leaves her. Most times it is the man who infects the woman; he has affairs outside their relationship, he gets infected, and he gives it to his partner.
"So, not only does he wreck her good health, he tries to wreck her good name by saying it is she who brought AIDS into the house. Otherwise, he'd have to admit that he was unfaithful and he was the one at fault.
"The guy is usually scared, too, because if his girlfriend is HIV he knows that means he is HIV. I am ashamed to admit that I was one of those guys who ran away. I had a girlfriend, but I always had other girlfriends.
"My girlfriend, Thabsile, I think knew about the other girls and she was hurt, but she loved me and she did not make a fuss. She did not even make a scene when she got sick and the doctors said she must test for HIV and it turned out she was positive for HIV.
"When she told me this she had been crying; her eyes were red. But when she broke the news to me her voice was quiet and she was not crying - I guess she knew I would not accept what she was saying, that I'd let her down. And that is what happened.
"She knew I'd be just another guy and run away. I left without saying anything; I was really stunned. I was wondering what girl gave me HIV? I was scared for myself and for Thabsile. I didn't come back that night to the place we shared.
"What can I tell you about Thabsile? She is 'cute as a button'. I don't know what that means - I heard it once - but it describes her. She has a wonderful smile. She has two smiles, actually, a nice smile for everyone else and a special smile for me.
"When I see her, when I am with her, I smile, too. She is special. I don't know why I went out with other girls when I had her, but a guy had to do what guys do.
I went back to Thabsile. And do you know what? We both cried. She cried and I cried. I held her. I said, "I am going to die anyway so I want to die with you."
"She is smart and she said, 'Neither of us has to die'. She showed me the pamphlets about living with HIV. She said I must test and get counselling, and we would help each other take our ARVs, which she said is very important and will help us live a long time.
Before I went back to Thabsile I made a commitment to myself that I would not see other girls anymore. I am going to be faithful. That is called romance; that's true love. It took this thing happening for me to see how much I love Thabsile. We are together again. My heart feels bigger inside my chest.