EMOTIONS ran high at this year’s World AIDS Day commemorations at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology when a young mother narrated how she was both impregnated and infected with HIV on the very same day she lost her virginity.
Although the day is normally commemorated on 1 December annually, Limkokwing held its event earlier in the week as the actual date was falling on Sunday (today).
Twenty-five-year-old ‘Nete Makara left many in tears when she narrated how she was impregnated and infected on the very same day she lost her virginity. She encouraged HIV/AIDS victims to be positive saying the dreaded disease was no longer a death sentence.
World AIDS Day was first observed in 1988. Each year, different organisations and individuals across the globe endeavor to increase HIV awareness and knowledge by speaking out against HIV stigma while calling for an increased response towards ending the HIV epidemic.
The commemorations were themed “Ending the HIV and AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community”. The institution however, added its own sub theme: “Protect your dream”.
Limkokwing partnered with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like the National AIDS Council (NAC), Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association (LPPA), Lesotho Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (LENEPWHA), Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), Population Services International (PSI) and JHPIEGO.
It was 25-year-old Makara’s testimony that left the audience in tears. Ms Makara, who has been living with HIV for the past eight years, was invited to share her experience with the students.
Ms Makara runs a Facebook page dubbed Beauty for Ashes where she shares her stories to give hope to people living with HIV and to show the world that being HIV positive is not the end of the world.
She left her audience in tears when she revealed that on the day that she lost her virginity, she was infected with HIV and also fell pregnant all at once.
“I was 17 years old when I was infected and I also fell pregnant,” Ms Makara said, adding: “I was hurt and angry with myself but I had to fight to get out of despair and face my mistakes so that I could move on”.
She urged the students to get tested and know their statuses. She said knowing one’s status would empower them to make informed decisions.
Ms Makara also encouraged HIV infected people to embrace anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy saying she was proof that the medication did not affect people’s body shapes as has been said in some quarters.
“Look at me, do I show any of the signs that people say are caused by ARVs,” she said with a twirl.
She says ARVs are meant to ensure that infected people live longer and encouraged the students to not make reckless sexual decisions.
For his part, Limkokwing registrar, Moroka Hoohlo, said the commemorations were crucial to their institution as it equipped the students with necessary knowledge about the HIV pandemic.
As part of the activities, JHAPIEGO encouraged male students to get circumcised and to keep their bodies clean.
LPPA Programmes director, ‘Makatleho Mphana, said there were working hard to enhance youth friendly services since 30 percent of all new HIV infections were among the youths.
“Thirty percent of all new infections are among the youth and this why it is important for the youth to get tested,” Ms Mphana said.
LENEPWHA executive director, Maketekete Thotolo, said youths must continue to follow their dreams despite any challenges they may encounter. He emphasized that HIV was no longer a death sentence.
“The youth should ensure that nothing stands in their way; not even HIV.
“Young people are tomorrow’s leaders, so HIV or not; we still need them,” Mr Thotolo said.
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