NTIMBWE MPAMBA, a 33-year-old Zambian living in Johannesburg, was born with HIV but only informed of his status in 2004. He told the Daily Vox about his journey of being diagnosed with HIV and how a positive attitude helped him find purpose in life.
HIV has been part of me for 33 years. Having been born with it, I didn’t know much about it growing up. I can’t say it didn’t affect me because there were sports and other things I couldn’t do that kids my age then were involved in. All I knew was that I was different from them.
My family relocated to South Africa in 1992 and relocation was the best thing that ever happened to me as it opened new doors to me.
I was first diagnosed with the HIV in 2004 after my mother’s death. At that time, I couldn’t believe it and I had so many questions as I was not sexually active at the time. That was the time I started experiencing different illnesses and my health was beyond redemption. I didn’t think I was ever going to make it after all those illnesses, but I pulled through.
After my mother’s death, life was never the same again. Everything became distorted and as much as support was there, it couldn’t compare to hers.
In 2005, I was initiated on the antiretroviral treatment that has been part of my life since then. At that time, my CD4 count started dropping drastically but the treatment helped me regain my healthy lifestyle. At first, I thought it was a normal disease until it was explained to me and reality started to hit me. I then realised that I will have to rely on medication for the rest of my life but it was a shock that made me see the value of life at another level.
My family had kept it a secret that I was born with it until a family relative told me in 2012 that I was actually born with it. I have dealt with different emotions. I have been depressed and asked questions that any normal person in my position would ask such as, “why me?”. But I have risen above the disease with a positive mind and attitude.
When I first came out in public about my status, everyone saw me as a legend and it was unbelievable. With all that I went through, my goal is to become an inspiration to the youth living with HIV and the children who face rejection from their communities. I want to be there for those who are going through what I went through and prove to them that HIV shouldn’t determine them.
I would have loved being part of the AIDS Conference 2016 that will be held in Durban. I believe that sharing my life story there would have given hope to a number of people. I really wish I could find a sponsor for my trip to Durban for the conference.
There are people who are living with HIV but haven’t accepted that because of fear. I would like to assure those people that HIV is just another phase in life that we shall all overcome with positivity. It really breaks my heart knowing that there is still so much stigma and hatred for people living with HIV. Being HIV-positive is a lifestyle and not a death sentence or a curse. People need to realise that it is not a taboo.
I am currently writing a book which reflects on my life and struggles. I hope that it will give people meaning to life and help them overcome their fears. Having been born and living with HIV for so many years, I believe I have a story to tell.