SOUTH AFRICA: Melanie, "If you won't test, I won't do 'it'"

Photo: Laura Lopez Gonzalez/PlusNews
"I made the move and was tested"
Johannesburg, 12 August 2010 (PlusNews) - Melanie grew up in a large, religious family in the South African seaside city of Port Elizabeth. She talked to IRIN/PlusNews about how HIV touched her life at a young age, and how education and loss gave her not only the ability to start her own HIV organization east of Johannesburg, but also to navigate HIV in her own discordant relationship.

"I grew up in a very religious house, where every day - Monday to Monday - for my parents was church, church, church.

"We were six brothers and six sisters ... two brothers were HIV-positive. Because I was closest to them, because I'm the chatty one ... and I'm easy to communicate with ... my brothers came to me [when they began to get sick] and said, 'Hey, my sister, there is something wrong'. I took them to test [for HIV].

"[When my brothers were diagnosed HIV-positive], I had to break the ice when it came to my parents. I went to my father and said, 'Hey Daddy, you know what? Charles is HIV-positive.'

"My father swore ... with all the 'f's' and 'b's' - you know how in the olden days parents used to swear at you? He went into shock because he felt it was embarrassing - 'What are other people going to say?'

"I was only 18 years old and I started to involve myself in community work. I joined this thing and that thing just to get to learn more, and I started [going for HIV] testing myself.

"I've lost two brothers to HIV and it's a very sensitive thing; it's not a nice thing to talk about because it makes me very emotional if I think about it - that's why I test.

"When I met [my husband] in 1989, I said, 'You don't want to test? I won't do 'it' [have sex] because, say, something is wrong with you? Let's be on the safe side.'

"He would say, 'No, no, no, but I'm clean.'

"So I made the move and was tested. I was negative [he found out he was HIV-positive]. We've got a daughter who is 21, who is HIV-negative, and we are grandparents because I'm the cheeky one - 'You don't want to test? I won't do 'it.'"


Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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