South Africa: Mlungisi Dlamini, "We Used to Have This Saying ... 'Any Meal Might Be the Last'". 9/7/10
"We didn't care about the future."
Johannesburg - The future was something Mlungisi Dlamini took for granted; it was not something he planned for until he was diagnosed HIV-positive. He now works with the South African AIDS lobby group, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), and talked to IRIN/PlusNews about his diagnosis and how it changed his life for the better.
"I was diagnosed in 2000 but I usually say I was diagnosed in 2001, because when I was diagnosed in 2000 I didn't receive any counselling. I was just tested because the doctor suspected something and I agreed.
"When he delivered the results he just came and said, 'Okay, you are HIV-positive and you don't have to go around just killing other people."
"In 2001 there was a roll-out of voluntary counselling and testing ... that's when I went [for testing] again and received proper counselling. Being diagnosed with HIV - I didn't have a problem with that because I just wanted to know, believe you me, I disclosed the very first day to my family and to my friends.
"I started getting sick in 2003-04, when the government started rolling out ARVs. I had pneumonia and I treated that, but it happened I had tuberculosis (TB) but the doctors [at the public clinics] couldn't find it for about five months.
"Finally, my former district coordinator at TAC sent me to a private clinic in Soweto, called Lesedi, [where doctors diagnosed my TB] and then I started TB treatment. I told the doctors to wait until I had stopped my TB treatment to start me on ARVs [antiretrovirals].
"ARVs changed my life a lot. I got exposed to the TAC, treatment literacy and virology, and that changed a lot in my mind, it gave me a will to love to help people to understand the virus.
"One of the things about growing up in the townships is that I always had bad company ... We didn't care about the future. We used to have this saying - it was from [a movie about the American mafia,] the Gambino family – 'Any meal might be the last'.
We used to live by that. We drank, we partied, we drove cars, had women – that was part of life in the township."