#IAmStillMe: My HIV story
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
My name is Nozibele Qamngana Mayaba. I am living positively with HIV.
I found out about my status August of 2013. I was 22 years old. It was by coincidence. There was a wellness day event planned at work. Everyone was encouraged to attend; to participate in the different activities planned. I had already made up my mind that I wasn’t going to join the festivities. I was avoiding meeting a dietitian or gym consultant that was going to tell me I was overweight, and I needed to lose a few kilos. I wasn’t in the mood.
During the course of the week, I saw my colleagues with goody bags. When I asked where they got them from, they said they were incentives for attending the wellness day event. That was enough for me to forget about all my weight problems and make a decision that I was attending after all. It was a Thursday afternoon. I had a meeting scheduled with my boss around 3pm. When I looked at the time, I realized I had half an hour before my meeting to go downstairs and see what I can get for myself.
When I arrived, one of the organizers told me I couldn’t just get the goody bag. I had to work for it. I had to visit all the stands in the venue. From the gym consultants, the physical activities, to the testing station. I could have just turned around and gone back to my desk. But I had walked all the way, I wasn’t about to go back empty handed.
I had a brief encounter with the gym and medical aid consultants. Thank God! I cheated my way through the physical activities. Eventually I was left with the testing station. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t see the need to test because I had gone for one the previous year. But since I was already there, I thought I might as well. It wouldn't be a train smash. To prove I wasn’t interested in the whole thing, I cannot recall what the nurse said during pre-counselling. I only remember her pricking the tip of my finger, squeezing blood out and waiting for my results. The whole time, I couldn't be bothered by anything. I was more anxious about being late for my meeting.
After a minute or so, waiting for my results, she asked to redo the test again. I thought that was weird. She casually explained that the test was inconclusive. That was enough to wake me up. What did she mean the test was inconclusive? I suddenly didn't even understand what inconclusive meant? She further explained that the results were not clear. "Has this happened before?", I asked her. She said yes. A part of me wanted to take this a sign that I should leave everything and go back to my desk and get ready for my meeting. Common sense kicked in and told me to allow the nurse to do the retest and confirm that I was HIV negative.
She did the test again. The waiting felt like a lifetime. My armpits were sweaty. Finally, she placed both tests in front of me and confirmed I was HIV positive. The first test was not inconclusive. She had done the second test to confirm the positive results.
I was shocked. More than anything else, I was confused. I didn’t understand what was happening. I had only been sleeping with one person. Let me actually rephrase that, my then boyfriend was the first person I had ever slept with. It hadn’t even been a year since I had given myself to him. How was I HIV positive?
For two years I went through a period of deep depression. I was suicidal. I cried myself to sleep. It was particularly difficult because I didn’t have the support of my family. I couldn’t tell them what was going on. What would I say? I was the “good girl”. I was their shining star. I was the kid that parents used as an example to discipline their kids. How do I start telling my mother that I was possibly dying? So, I kept quiet. I didn’t say anything. I physically felt the pain eating me inside.
To make things worse, my boyfriend left me a few months later. That was enough to send me off the edge.
You never get over something like this. You learn to live with it. With the support of family and friends, I came to a place of acceptance. It took a lot of work. It took a lot of praying. It took a lot of talking. I had to forgive. I had to take responsibility of what happened. I let go of the hate. I let go of the blaming. I fought hard to have my life back and take charge of what destiny looked like.
Six years later, I am healthy. I’m on treatment. I’m doing very well.
Coming out has not been an easy process. You are never fully prepared for such a step. But as I continued praying about my journey, God kept revealing to me that my story was not in vain. So many of us go through tough situations. You may not have necessarily been infected with HIV. But you may have been through something that threatened to shake your entire existence. A situation where you doubted if you will ever be the same again. My journey has been about the reassurance that #IAmStillMe. Yes, I am wiser. I have grown. But the essence of what has made me the person I am, who I was born to be, has not changed because I am HIV positive.
As I aim to share more of my story, my prayer is that I get to remind you that in whatever you're going through, although it may take time, you will be okay. You will be fine.
I am Nozibele Qamngana-Mayaba. I am HIV positive and #IAmStillMe.
*See more of my story on my Youtube Channel ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awzmbnlDbqI ). Please make sure you subscribe and like.
**For more on my story, I am in the finale stages of my book, titled “#IAmStillMe”. Date to be confirmed.