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Being HIV-positive is not a death sentence.

"I’ve been living with the virus for the past 10 years and I live a full life,” Sarah Mohlakola, a

mother of two, said on World Aids Day in Midrand on Monday.
Mohlakola was addressing dozens of people who included Ward 92 Councillor Leepile Motsumi. at

Tshwaranang, a centre for orphaned and vulnerable children, in Kaalfontein Extension 2, in

Johannesburg’s Region A.

The centre has been operating for the past nine years.

The day kicked off with a clean-up campaign by Pikitup, the Johannesburg Roads Agency and the

Community Work Programme.  Streets were swept, road markings repainted, kerb inlets cleaned and

road signs re-erected before everyone converged on Tshwaranang for a candle-lighting ceremony in

remembrance of people who have died as a result of HIV-Aids and in support of those living with the

virus. Councillor Motsumi directed his message to the youth.

“Avoid hazardous situations that could expose you to HIV-Aids. There’s apathy and ignorance among

the youth. They think they are immune to the virus. Their careless behaviour when drunk is delaying

our struggle against the epidemic. But we’re slowly winning the war against stigmatisation. Now we

need to ensure that people stick to their medication,” he said.

The City’s Department of Health and Social Development conducted free screening tests for

hypertension and diabetes and offered voluntary counselling and testing for HIV.

Drawing from her personal experience, Mohlakoa told the audience that people can still lead quality

life despite their HIV status.

“People say I have Z3 and am going to die soon. You don’t die from Aids. You die from the stress of

denial. And because your immune system is compromised, you become susceptible to infections.

People, Aids is no killer. “When I was diagnosed with HIV-Aids in 2004, I hid my status. I was

angry with the world. I didn’t want people to know because I was afraid of being shunned by my

family, friends and the community at large,” Mohlakola said.

“But through the support I received from people close to my heart, I was able to rediscover my zest

for life. I’ve been on antiretroviral drugs since 2007. Although my viral load is not detectable, I

still continue to take medication because I don’t want to expose myself to opportunistic diseases.

Members of the Right to Care campaign, which encourages men to go for free circumcision at Helen

Joseph Hospital, distributed flyers at the event.

Region A Health Deputy Director Nelly Shongwe conducted home visits and offered support to those

who are bed-ridden. “Every day should be World Aids Day. Although the city’s interventions are

bearing fruit, people need to stick to their medication and not skip and re-infect others. Every

day we need to educate each other about HIV-Aids,” she said.