Pholokgolo Ramothwala, "You Can Never Hide HIV Forever". 26/8/10

"I have two children who are HIV-negative and a partner that is HIV-negative"

26 August 2010

Johannesburg - Journalist and long-time HIV activist Pholokgolo Ramothwala, 32, was diagnosed HIV-positive at the age of 19. He runs his own communications company and writes an online diary about living with HIV. He spoke to IRIN/PlusNews about love, disclosure and discordance.

"I get hundreds of letters from people – the most frequent questions [they have] are about relationships and HIV disclosure.

"Delaying disclosure has got its own implications, because you fall in love with this person and it becomes more and more difficult to tell [them]. The one advice I have, that I always tell people, is that you can never hide HIV forever.

"Somewhere [along the way], your partner is going to want a child, or you are going to get sick, or have to start taking ARVs [antiretrovirals]; somewhere, something is going to happen that is going to make this person start wondering.

"From the first time I meet you, I'll tell you I have HIV – take it or leave it. I have a friend who called me last night to tell me that he broke up with somebody because she didn't want to accept that he's got HIV.

"I said, 'You know what? Move on. There's a lot more people out there that are accepting of HIV.' [In] South Africa there's almost six million people that are living with HIV ... [but] we behave like [that's not the case].

"Most people who are HIV-negative have a risk appetite for HIV – [in other words] because I don't look like I have HIV, people are willing to sleep with me.

"It might be uncomfortable, but it's the truth, and you have to talk to couples about that. We can talk about multiple concurrent partnerships, but there are people in stable relationships that are getting infected because they just didn't think about testing for HIV.

"I have two children who are HIV-negative and a partner that is HIV-negative, and it all happened because of the knowledge that I had [about HIV]. It sounds like a complicated science but it's not.

"I live with HIV every day in my house, I know what I need to do to protect my partner, I know how important it is to use a condom. I know what it is that I shouldn't do sexually, because for the past 12 years I've gained experience of what works and what doesn't.

"But the one challenge I always had was having to find that information. If I was not a journalist by profession, maybe I would never have known all these things."

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