Loyiso Lindani on How HIV Saved her Life

Photo provided by Loyiso Lindani

We have all encountered heroes at some point in our lives: people who exude power, confidence and truth. Loyiso Lindani is one such hero to not only me but to many of those who have met her.

Loyiso grew up in what she describes as a non-supportive and abusive family. She lost both parents as a teenager, dropped out of school and found herself dating men who ranged from everyday people to taxi drivers and sugar daddies. 

Loyiso has managed to turn a challenging situation into a powerful story of survival, self-realization and self-acceptance. Her HIV diagnosis set her on a path of transformation. She shared with The Weight She Carries how HIV saved her life.

Who is Loyiso Lindani?

My name is Loyiso Lindani, a woman living with HIV, a published author, journalist, creative artist, and most of all an all-round support system for people living with HIV.

How did you find out you were HIV-positive and how did you feel about your diagnosis?

Before getting tested, I had lived my life like any other person would: moving from relationship to relationship, using protection for the first few times and suddenly stopping, no questions asked, just because someone looks healthy and fit. I mean we have normalised not being tested and just being too trusting of one’s partner because they do not have sores or a cough.

What eventually led me to get tested was the fact that I was pregnant at the time and needed to know my status because now I had the responsibility of taking care of the child I was carrying, and that began by knowing my status.

My doctor was surprised by my request to get tested because every other test had come back negative. I was filled with anxiety and fear, but it’s something that had to be done.

At the time, I was living alone and had no support system around me. On top of that, the little information I had about HIV was what I heard from radio or television and that once you tested positive, you were confined to death.

And so I tried my best to prepare myself for whatever outcome because I knew how I had lived prior to getting pregnant.

When the results were relayed to me, my heart sank to the bottom of my feet. It felt like someone had thrown a bucket of cold water over me. I was in deep shock, but I could not cry in the doctor’s office because then people would know that something was wrong.

I was shattered as I walked out of the doctor’s office, but as I was going out, I realised that despite my situation, life was moving on. The woman by the corner selling her fruits and vegetables was still at it. The vehicles on the road were still moving. The world was moving on. It had not stopped because of my positive result.

This is when I realised that I had to move on with the world, which began by me disclosing my status to my close friend. She was so supportive and encouraging and declared that I was going to live for many years. It was just the encouragement I needed because in my mind at that time I was going to die soon. What made it worse was that people were dying every day. The statistics were just pointing towards HIV being a death sentence, but because I held on to her words, I am alive and telling my story today.

What are your words of advice and encouragement?

My advice would be to take responsibility for your health. Be accountable for every decision you make so that when something goes wrong, you [are not] pointing fingers. Take time to have that uncomfortable conversation of getting tested as partners. Get tested and know your status.

Photo provided by Loyiso Lindani.

“How HIV Saved My Life” is the title of your book. How did it come about?

The book is one of the best things that has happened to me. It has allowed me to reflect on the things that transpired. I have had to retrace my decisions in the past and re-evaluate my thought patterns at the time. I had to look at my pain in deep reflection, having to detach myself from it in order for me to acknowledge the role I played as well.

There are a lot of things I did not want to remember but had to for the sake of my own healing process, which led to me getting headaches caused by the anxiety. It was a painful phase but very helpful in the end.

My aim for the book is that possibly someone who reads it may use it as a blueprint on how to accept a positive status and also how to navigate through the shame and stigma associated with HIV up to this day.

I have had people come back to apologize to me after shaming me because of the lack of understanding they had. A positive status is often associated with promiscuity, which is not always the case. Some faithful people do contract it. Some are born with it, but they still do face shaming and stigma, which I have highlighted in the book.

If we all work together, we can eventually have an HIV-free generation. Mindsets must change in order for us to achieve this goal.

Get a copy of Loyiso’s book “How HIV Saved My Life” in leading bookstores across South Africa, or go to their online platforms for delivery.

Let’s change the narrative about HIV.

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