South Africa

My name is Philisiwe and I am 38 years old. I am a woman, a mother, a daughter and a sister.  I am a mother to two lovely boys and I will fight until my last breath for them because they are all that I can truly call mine.

My life growing up was not easy, but through hard work, I have made it this far. I was diagnosed with HIV in 2005 but I struggled to accept my diagnosis and had to overcome a lot of internalised stigma before I finally started antiretroviral treatment in 2018. In addition to living with HIV, I was also diagnosed with hypertension which is managed with medication and from time to time I struggle with depression.

I have to fight for my physical and mental health every day, acknowledging that trauma at an early age contributed to the battles I still fight. Despite working at HIV-focused NGOs my entire professional career I struggled to start taking ARVs, delaying treatment initiation for 13 years. It was easier to fight for other people’s health than to take care of my own. I only made the decision to start treatment when I developed shingles – that was my wake-up call because I didn’t want to fall ill and become a burden. I consider myself lucky that I never become seriously ill because I delayed treatment for so long.

I value life, happiness and my family above everything and I am the person that steps up and takes responsibility to keep my family together despite being unemployed several times and struggling financially. This sense of responsibility has resulted in high stress levels, worrying about being unable to provide for my mother and kids. Thankfully I am currently employed and have been able to support my family through the hardships of COVID.

I am an independent woman and while I do sometimes long to be cared for I don’t want to be in a relationship because I’m tired of explaining my status to people who don’t deserve my trust. I respect myself and others, I love my family and I strive to do good in my community.