As a mother, wife and health counselor living with HIV in South Africa, I know about the fears that a woman can feel when she thinks about disclosing her HIV status to loved ones. When I discovered that I was living with HIV, I feared stigma on top of the hardship of being diagnosed with an incurable virus.
But, through the pain, I came to see some benefits of disclosure — and even the joy. I did face some rejection from people who did not understand HIV and judged me for my illness; but many close friends and family members gave me love and support during times when I felt most devastated.
In 1997, I lost my husband and five-month-old daughter to AIDS-related illnesses. Those deaths broke my heart. After disclosing my HIV status to my remaining loved ones, I followed my antiretroviral treatment consistently, without fear of being found out. Eventually, I met a man who accepted me as I am, and we have had two sons together. Both children are HIV-free because of my commitment to following a prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) regimen.