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Born with AIDS, jaded by stigma

Publishing Date : 04 July, 2017


At only 18, Tlotlo Lillian Moilwa has a lot more in her plate. Unlike other teenagers whose whole life problems come to daydreaming about their crushes, battling with studies, rebelling against the world and fighting problems that come with puberty-there is an added burden to her tiny shoulders.

Moilwa was born with HIV and has struggled with stigma issues for a long time. But she did not want to wallow in self pity anymore, in March 2016, she decided it was time she went public about her status. She does not let negativity affect her at all; strong-minded, she is determined to live as long as God allows her to.

“I found out I was HIV positive when I was 10 years old, I was going through my late mother’s medical cards and found it written ’HIV transmitted from mother to baby’, At the time I didn’t understand what that meant at all, I didn’t even care to ask my aunt and grandmother. I was just very oblivious and went to join the other kids playing down my neighborhood.”

Both her parents succumbed to AIDS related illnesses, leaving her and her sister orphaned.”My mother passed on when I was six, that was in 2006 and my father later passed on when I was eight in 2008, they both died of AIDS,” Moilwa told WeekendLife.
According to her, stigma is a result of ignorance on the part of many people, and that is why she chooses to speaks openly about the feared HIV/AIDS. “I speak at schools and conferences; I also do it through radio, television and interviews to educate both kids and adults about the virus so they understand what it is and what it’s like to live with it,”she said.

 She has spoken to thousands of people, hoping to help educate others and reduce the stigma around HIV.  “Growing up knowing that I am HIV positive wasn’t a pleasing thing whenever a teacher stood up in front of me to talk about STIs I would feel uncomfortable in class, get embarrassed, shed tears as I had a haunting feeling that people could tell/see that I am HIV positive,” she shared.

While she admits that she gets tossed about by pain and feelings of low self worth where the reality of her status haunts her; she manages to rise above it all. “But no I don’t blame my mom or dad! I don’t know how they got the virus as well, so why would I point fingers?” she asserted.

She has a strong support system in TEEN CLUB; her aunt, grandmother and sister. “I am living positively with this virus, the fact that I am HIV positive is not a barrier to anything I want to do just like any other person, I date, I have fun but no I don’t take liquor like most youth.” She hopes that by using her voice and living as an example, she can help the world be a more understanding place for those who are afraid to be open about having HIV, so they can let go of the shame and feel comfortable in their own skin.

“As a teenager living positive; I got to realize that many young people are failing to accept the fact that they have the HIV virus thus I am trying to help them overcome that fear by granting them courage. I am also hoping that in time, the negative thoughts people have of HIV can die away through what I do.”          

According to Moilwa, she doesn’t announce her HIV status to the grocery store cashier or to new acquaintances out of the blue like a kid, but she does stand in front of crowds and openly talk about having HIV. “As an ambassador of Sentebale; a registered charity that supports orphans and vulnerable children, many of whom are affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, through education, psychosocial support, and care we give them the tools they need to lead healthy and productive lives.

I get to travel with them on different occasions where I am always given moments to speak to young people; and as I speak I will be leaving Africa to UK to meet the Patron of Sentebale, Prince Harry himself,” she added. She is part of only a handful of HIV positive Batswana, possibly the youngest, to have made public their status since David Ngele more than two decades ago.



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