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POSITIVE LIVING FROM BIRTH

Keletso Thobega

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Tlotlo Lillian Moilwa is a 20-year old HIV/AIDS activist who has not allowed her status to define her.

Moilwa advocates for young people living with HIV, and uses her own story in her activism. During World AIDS Day commemorations in Mochudi in December, she delivered a moving speech that touched many including President Mokgweetsi Masisi and First Lady Neo Masisi.
They were seemingly touched by the young woman’s boldness and bravery and extended their support to her.

Moilwa is among thousands of young Batswana born between 1988 and 1998 who were born HIV positive.

This is largely because during that period HIV was still new and there was more misinformation and programmes such as PMTCT, that stop HIV transmission of HIV from mother to child had not yet been rolled out.

The pretty and bubbly Moilwa, a student at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology lost her mother and father when she was six and eight years old respectively.

At the time, little did she know what was really going on. It was only at ten years old that she realised what exactly was going on and her health status.

“One day I went through my medical records only to find ‘HIV transmitted from mother to child’ on it,” she recalls. She however says that she did not struggle to come to terms with her status.

“I did not imagine that I would be dying. I was fit and healthy and not on medication because I had kept my CD4 constant and viral load low. It was only when I was 16 that I went for tests and they indeed came back positive.

“My CD4 was at 306 and that is when I started taking medication,” she says. It was around this time that she reached out to other young people living with the virus.

“I met a group of young people living with HIV and that is when I realised that many people are failing to accept their HIV status. I decided to come out with my status as a way of helping others accept their status,” she says.

She knew that there were possibilities of facing stigma so she prepared herself psychologically. “This made it easy for me to deal with stigma when I came across it.”

One of the challenges she faced was at school because she had to regularly see a doctor and on her return she would have to explain to her teachers where she had been.

“It was difficult because at the time I was not ready to open up about my status.” Disclosing therefore helped her as she grew up and she did not need to constantly explain herself.

Although she has come across discrimination and stigma, it did not hit her hard because she realised early that the more one openly speaks about an issue the more people accept it and get used to it.

The activist says that developments in HIV/AIDS treatment such as PrEP and U=U (Undetectable=Untransmittable) are applaudable and can improve the lives of many people. She however notes that it is still equally important to be informed.

Moilwa urges everyone who is HIV positive to get rid of the mindset that HIV/AIDS kills. “Anyone who is HIV positive can lead a long and fruitful life if they adhere to their medication.

“I am proud to say that I am HIV positive and living my best life. To those who are negative, I say, keep it that way; abstain or condomise.”

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