By Ayanda Mahlaba (3 mins read)
Pholokgolo Ramathwala was a 19-year-old media studies student at the University of Stellenbosch when he found out that he was HIV positive.
“The excitement of being in a new relationship led me to test for HIV; I knew the relationship would become sexual at some point. Thus, I wanted to reconfirm my status before things got too serious with her.
“After having sex a couple of times, we both decided not to use condoms anymore as we trusted each other and she was on birth control, which is a mistake most people do,” Ramathwala says.
He was speaking on Wednesday, 10th April, during a book discussion at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) about his journey of accepting his HIV positive status.
It has helped shape him into a better individual in a position to encourage those infected to realise that there is a life beyond being HIV positive.
After he tested positive on his third HIV test, it was difficult for him to come to terms with these results as he has always believed that he had been a ‘good boy’ and did everything according to the book to protect himself against the virus.
Ramathwala decided to keep his status to himself for the next three weeks until he accidentally told one of his friends during a party.
His friend’s response was very positive and welcoming, which made him feel more at ease about his status and encouraged not to give up on life anymore.
He became motivated to speak to the next person about his status and as a result, within three months, he was already doing interviews and learning more about the virus, helping him to gradually accept his status.
“Once you go through the process of accepting that you have a condition and understand that you are not going anywhere, it gets easier,” said the author of My life beyond HIV: What HIV taught me in 20 years.
It has been twenty years now since Ramathwala found out that he is HIV positive.
The Convention Network is here to help
For the past years, Ramathwala has helped shape the HIV/AIDS discourse through his work in ‘The Treatment Campaign’ and ‘Soul City’ as a partnership manager and has since moved on to running his entity ‘The Convention Network’ (TCN).
Through his establishment, the activist helps those diagnosed with the virus. “My work now is 90% working with people who are infected. With most (of) them, it is a process. Some, in five years, still don’t have the energy to talk to anybody about being positive.
“I get people who say, ‘You are the first person I have disclosed to and I have been positive for eight years’.”
Considering that TCN’s focus is on social wellness, it is specifically dedicated to helping those living with the virus understand that they are not alone as there are a number of people willing to listen and be supportive.
Ramathwala works more closely with students as he feels that he can relate to them on a more personal level since he was also a student when he learnt about his status.
“I feel that I understand the direct struggles of students like how it feels being on medication that makes one sleepy while they need to study and focus on their academics,” he explained.
“I won’t wait for the virus to kill me,” says a UJ student.
The Convention is dedicated to ensuring these students understand that there is a life beyond being HIV.
With the desired outcome of reviving their dreams and ambitions, TCN encourages them not to let the virus be the sole determining factor of their lives.
According to a postgraduate student from UJ, the work of the Network is helpful.
The 26-year-old said, “It’s been six months now since I have been going for life support programmes at The Convention Network. It has made me realise that I won’t wait for the virus to kill me, but I still need to live the best life possible as HIV is a manageable condition.” TOJ
Reporting by Ayanda Mahlaba. Editing by Gaby Ndongo and Magnificent Mndebele. Feature image obtained from Pixapay.