My name is Loyce and I’m from Harare, Zimbabwe.
This year I celebrated my 24th birthday which in one way is a miracle. Because the truth is, at age 12 I was totally convinced I was going to die of AIDS.
You see, my mum and brother passed away within a week of each other when I was only 10 years old.
They both died of AIDS and tuberculosis (TB). I was completely devastated. Four years later, when I started to get sick myself, a test at the local clinic confirmed my worst fears. I too had HIV and TB. I thought there was no way I would survive.
But I was lucky and fortunately was able to get the treatment I needed. The difference for me was that wealthy countries had begun contributing to the newly set up Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund had begun providing donor funds through the Zimbabwe health system which it was also doing in many other affected countries. This meant my local clinic now had medical staff and medication to get me started on life-saving treatment for my TB (which is now cured) as well as on the medication for my HIV. I just wish the same support had been available for my mother and brother.
Even though it saved my life, the treatment for my TB was challenging to put it mildly. The number of pills I had to take every day overwhelmed me, and the physical side effects left me feeling sick and depressed. I also had to stop schooling for months, which severely affected my grades and made me feel even more low.
At the time of my diagnosis I didn’t know anything about HIV, AIDS or TB. People were dying all around me from these dreadful diseases and yet everyone seemed afraid to admit to their illness. I guess this was understandable because prejudice and stigma from the local community was relentless. What was even worse was the verbal abuse I suffered from my relatives. These were people who I believed were supposed to care for me unconditionally.
Living with HIV has been much more than just making sure I take my medication. It has also been about learning how to deal with the huge social adjustment. Getting involved with the support group through Africaid Zvandiri allowed me to speak openly and honestly about my story with people of my own age.
Hearing how others were living and dealing with the disease helped motivate me to keep moving forward. I now work as a peer support counsellor in Harare with young HIV-positive people and am also doing a certificate in community development at college. One day I’d like to get married and have a family. I want to have a really big wedding!