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Good stories for positive living

Thula Mkhize, CEO and Chairperson of Good Stories, found out he was living with HIV on the eighth of January 2009. “Next year will be the ninth anniversary of this amazing journey that has changed my life for the better. I didn’t allow HIV to limit me and steal my dreams – today I’m happily married to an HIV negative woman, and I’m a father of two.”

Thula has come a long way since that day in January and the journey has not been without its challenges. “The biggest challenge was thinking I was going to die, but this didn’t last, within six months to a year I had accepted my status. I’ve always been strong minded and questioned things so it was only natural for me question what was in my community at the time. Being the strong-minded person that I am, and not wanting to accept that my life was over, I went on journey searching for people that have lived with HIV for a long time and the more I found these, interacted with them, the more I started believing I could be like them.”

The thing about HIV, or should I say, adversity, is that it gives you an opportunity to reassess your life, find out who you really are, the direction your life is going and the decision that you make on a daily basis.

“I don’t think of myself any differently to my twin brother who’s not living with HIV – we both lead a healthy lifestyle, we both work hard, we both laugh, we both enjoying life and making the best of each day as we should.”

This journey inspired Thula to start Good Stories with his brother. “We document stories of people that have or are living “successfully” with HIV to change the way people view and experience HIV/AIDS; change mind-sets, fight the stigma, and to prove that HIV/AIDS is not the end, it’s not a death sentence. We want to create HIV-friendly communities – environments where people can get tested and comfortably reveal their statuses without being judged, discriminated, expected to get sick, lose weight and imminently die.”

“We, as country, currently find ourselves in a situation we are able to address certain elements of HIV/AIDS. We’ve made great strides in the availability of all technical elements, like testing facilities, and HIV/AIDS management through the availability antiretroviral drugs. But we are struggling with addressing the heart and mind element. This is important because it drives how people react to HIV/AIDS, related subjects and inevitably drives behaviour.”

“And that’s where we come in, the technical elements will not have the desired effect because our people are HIV-damaged. Our people are still holding on to information that is not relevant today. We use facts, real life stories to educate and expose people to the possibilities that exist today.”

Young people like Thula have a critical role to play in preventing HIV and ending AIDS: “We are the link between the very old people who are in power and cannot make effective decisions that will impact the now and the future, because they do not understand the current environment and possibly the future environment. I’m not saying that we can tell the future, but we are better positioned.”

Thula’s message to other young people living with HIV?

“Make the most of life, and to do that you have to control HIV, and not allow it to control you.”

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