It can be said that HIV is highly stigmatised in black communities in South Africa. People living with the virus choose not to disclose their status to others because of the prejudices they know they will have to face. However, this does not apply to 21-year-old Mbali Peaceful Kgomo who lives by the slogan, “Never a victim always a fighter“.
A blogger, journalist, youth ambassador and the founder of WADA16 Campaign (World Aids day awareness), Mbali was born and bred in the roads of Ekangala. She says being HIV positive will not stop her from succeeding.
Tell us about WADA16
When I found out about my status, I was miserable. I had so many questions to a point where I even questioned the point of living. I wished I could give God a call and give Him a piece of my mind, I didn’t understand and kept asking myself, “why me?”. Back then, I thought I had lost value and was nothing but useless.
WADA brings awareness to our communities because as people we are ignorant about the virus and we’re often stigmatized. WADA is trying to bring positive change about what people think and how they look at those people who are infected with the HIV virus.
You are currently involved in the second coming of Uthingo Mail, which means you will be playing a huge role in what media and information are shared with the young people of Siyabuswa. How do you plan to use this platform?
A goal without a plan is just a wish. Firstly, I need to find people who are willing to be part of my team and who won’t give up along the way, people who are not lazy and who are willing to learn.
I want to give young people the platform to experience new things and to recognise what they really want to do; I’m actually targeting high school learners. Before we can even go to print I’ll post their stories on our Facebook page first until I’m satisfied with their writing. I also need to find sponsors for the newspaper there’s actually a lot that needs to be done.
You’ve been characterized as brave. Tell us how difficult it was for you to finally open up?
Well at first it was really difficult to share my story until I had a mini argument with my cousin. She said to me, “You’re too young to be HIV positive, you should go fetch your pills.” This really hurt me so bad I felt useless at that moment and my reply to her was, “At least I know my status what about you (uhambe uyotesta) go test.” If I can recall then I decided to cut ties with her.
I figured that I need to tell people about this, they need to be taught about HIV/AIDS because most people think when you’re positive you’re automatically on treatment and it’s not like that. There’s a certain stage you have to reach before taking medication and I must say I’m healthy and my CD4 count is above 500 so I’m not on treatment yet.People need to be taught about HIV/AIDS - Mbali Peaceful Kgomo Click To Tweet
I found out about my status on May 25, 2015, I was very angry, confused, disappointed and I felt so dirty at that moment. I couldn’t believe it was really me, I sat there and cried but then I had to pull myself together. When I went out that room, I felt so horrible deep inside. I even thought it was the end of my life but then it was only the beginning of great things. After finding out about my status I decided to get a tattoo on my back that’s written, “Never a victim always a fighter”.
How has your life changed since you found out about your status?
In the last two years, my life has changed dramatically. I was really an outgoing person and there were so many people in my life which I called “friends” who were really not true friends. I was a lost soul until I decide to cut them out of my life and associate myself with positive minded people.
Look at me today, I’m a person I never thought I would be. Some people even look up to me, I’m just glad that I’m a different person than I was before.
It is difficult to breathe in a black society when you are HIV, how do you overcome all the negativity?
I will maintain the positive attitude I have always had and I won’t let anything stop me from doing what I do best. I will walk tall like nothing is happening even though there will be people who will look at me differently and talk bad about me.Mbali Peaceful Kgomo: I won’t let anything stop me from doing what I do best Click To Tweet
At the end of the day, I’m planning to change that as I will be spreading factual information about HIV. People need to understand that just because you’re positive it doesn’t mean you are sick, it’s just a virus living inside your blood.
What was required to finally say, “Yes I am HIV and I am not ashamed”?
It was three things, bravery, strength, and courage.
You once said, “Tattoos are my medicine”, how so?
Lol! I’ve got eight tattoos in total and they all have different meanings. The tattoo on my wrist is in memory of my late mother. When I got it, I was still grieving and it was so hard for me to accept her passing. But after getting the tattoo the pain I was feeling inside slowly faded away.
I have another tattoo on the right side of my wrist, I got that one after being betrayed. It was actually a way of me forgiving that person but not forgetting what happened. I was able to move on after a few months and to be my old self again, so I decided that we should give it another try.
Some people don’t understand why I get inked but getting a tattoo is an escape from the pain that I face in life. They help me deal with all the painful things that are happening in my life.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.