Ask any single–or any divorced woman for that matter–how hard dating is, and many will share just how difficult it is to find love. Now, what if you add that you are HIV-positive into that mix? Nearly impossible, right?
Well, Mandisa Dukashe was not only able to overcome her HIV-positive status and find love, but she’s also able to help others learn about and protect themselves from HIV.
Mandisa is a trained nurse and works in response to HIV to ensure quality control in health-care settings. She is living with HIV and encourages people to get tested for HIV. Her husband and two daughters are all HIV-negative. The picture with her family went viral in 2018 after being featured on the cover of the UNAIDS World AIDS Day report, Knowledge is power, as living proof that sustained HIV treatment can suppress a person’s viral load and prevent the transmission of HIV to a partner and children.
“This can be done by anyone,” she says confidently.
Dukashe is also the founder of the HIV Survivors and Partners Network, an NGO/PBO based in South Africa. Today, Mandisa serves on a number of HIV/AIDS steering committees for advocacy and civil society groups throughout South Africa.
–article originally found here—
Mandisa Dukashe was nervous before she took an HIV test in 2002. As a nursing student in South Africa, where more than 4 million people were living with HIV at the time, she knew it was possible that she would test positive for the virus. “I was very stressed,” she says. “I kept postponing the test.”
According to an in-depth interview with UNAIDS, Dukashe had learned about HIV while she was going to school for nursing, so the staff at the clinic assumed that she was well informed and didn’t need pretest counseling. “They told me I am a nursing student and should know what it entails.”
The test result was positive. Dukashe joined 510,000 other South Africans who became newly infected with HIV in 2002—20% of all new infections worldwide.
When Dukashe was diagnosed with HIV, South Africa had only recently started to roll out treatment and it was five years before she got access to it. It was harder to come by then, with limited medicine formulations that were only prescribed for people falling ill with an AIDS-related illness.
After the initial shock and dismay, it didn’t take Dukashe long to embrace her status, pick herself back up, and spread the word. She wanted to warn other young people to avoid HIV infection, take a test, and seek support if they tested HIV-positive. “After the counseling, I felt so bold and confident and I was ready within a week to go out and tell the world with the intention of raising awareness, in particular among young women and adolescent girls.”
“At first I didn’t want to reveal my HIV status because I knew that it could be an issue, so I focused on my nursing studies. Eventually, I fell in love with a guy and I feared he would reject me, but I had to tell him—I cannot live a lie.”
But things weren’t always easy for her. Dukashe was married when she was diagnosed. “Some people say that HIV can bring you closer, but…