Buya uzo cheka impilo!

Buya uzo cheka impilo” means “Come back to check your life/health”. This message is vital because many guys find out that they are HIV positive but never go on treatment or do start but stop at some point.

Fact: A lot of people prefer not to know their HIV status rather than having it confirmed.
Fact: Most people who get an HIV test are nervous about getting the result.
Fact: Many who receive an HIV positive diagnosis may be scared to go onto ARV treatment.
Fact: Some people fear what others will think if they’re seen getting ARVs from a clinic.
Fact: People sometimes stop taking their ARVs because they don’t feel sick or because they find it’s a challenge to take time off work or to get to a clinic.

Fear and lack of knowledge are often behind these facts. The truth is that if you are positive and the sooner you go onto treatment, the sooner the ARVs will start fighting the HIV in your body. People who are HIV positive have a considerably lower risk of developing Aids or other serious illnesses if they start taking antiretroviral drugs sooner rather than later. Being HIV positive and not on ARVs puts you at a higher risk of getting other STIs and developing more severe symptoms. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to get the HIV under control once you eventually go onto ARVs.

Modern ARVs have very few side effects and can lower HIV so that tests can’t pick it up. This is called “undetectable” and means that the chances of you passing HIV on to someone else is 0%.

The benefits of staying on ARVs are clear. Nothing, especially not fear, should stand in your way of living a full life.

HIV testing and ARVs are available for free at our EMH services in Johannesburg, Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay. Please WhatsApp call or message us on 082 607 1686 to book an appointment. 

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I’m now a PrEP convert

I’m Rudy Bessit, a gay 36-year-old Johannesburg actor and writer. I first heard about PrEP two years ago and I started asking around about how (and if) it works. Some of what I heard seemed alarming; someone told me that my kidneys would be affected and the fact that I’d have to take a pill every day felt like too much of a commitment.

I later met people who were on PrEP and enquired some more, but I still wasn’t convinced to start using it. After all, how legit could this be; medication for HIV negative people that actually prevent HIV infection?

Then, while browsing Facebook one day, I saw an ad from Engage Men’s Health with a WhatsApp number. I decided to message and get more info. The person on the other end was very friendly, informative, and that made me comfortable enough to visit the Engage clinic in Johannesburg.

The clinic is situated within an easy-to-find establishment in Melville. It’s clean, modern and felt welcoming. The staff are very friendly, funny and professional at the same time.

Being a freelance actor, I didn’t make an appointment because my days are unpredictable. However, I was still received and treated kindly. I cracked jokes and laughed with the staff throughout my visit.

Once the staff explained to me what I’d be tested for, how PrEP works and how they would monitor my kidneys, I was finally comfortable to start taking the pills.

See, your kidneys can be affected by any medication – not just PrEP. That’s why blood is drawn at the clinic. It’s to check the state of your kidneys before going on the pills. The healthcare worker will check your kidney function every few months to ensure that the medication does not affect these organs negatively. For most people with healthy kidneys, there should be no problem.

They also explained how PrEP arms the white blood cells to prevent HIV-infection, and this got me to understand the legitimacy of the pill. It’s been repeatedly proven to be more than 99% effective if you take it daily.

So why did I think PrEP was for me? I know from experience that one can never be sure how faithful your partner is, or how responsible they are if they did end up sleeping with someone else. You may think you are safe from HIV by having just one partner, but you may be wrong.

Another reason why I felt that PrEP is a good idea is the fact that I can now assist strangers when they’re injured and bleeding without fearing to come into contact with their blood. I’d have far more confidence and courage to get involved.

I started PrEP in September and got a one month supply. For the first three days or so after I started, I felt sleepy and my stomach was looser than usual. By day five, everything was back to normal and I’ve not had any other side effects since then. I returned to the Engage clinic after the first month. I got a three-month supply which is convenient because I won’t have to return to the clinic every single month. And it’s all free!

As a single guy on the dating scene, PrEP has given me real peace of mind that I am protected from HIV. I’ve realised that it is well worth the commitment of taking a pill every day. So call me a convert; I’m now a happy PrEP user!

PrEP has been scientifically proven to be over 99% effective at preventing HIV infection. For free PrEP and other sexual health services contact EMH in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay or Buffalo City on 082 6071686 by either calling or WhatsApp message to set up an appointment. For more PrEP information click here

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Bottoms Up

Let’s face it, being a bottom in the bedroom is not always easy. It not only can take a little more effort and preparation but we don’t always get the respect we deserve.

Your sexual position, role and personal turn-ons are nothing to ever be ashamed of. We say, enough of bottom shaming and booty stigma!

So, in honour of all the bottoms out there, here are some handy tips to help make your sex life easier, safer and hotter than ever:

  • First things first: To have anal sex (and enjoy it), you and your top partner need to take things slow. Take your time, breath and try to relax before you get jiggy with it.
  • While the anus and rectum do not usually store faeces (poo), there may be remnants left behind. Before having sex, have a shower or bath and gently clean yourself with your fingers and warm water and soap.
  • You may want to start with some foreplay, such as letting your partner finger you using plenty of water-based lube as you relax.
  • Unlike a vagina, the anus is not naturally lubricated. It’s for this reason that it is important to use lots of water-based lube when having anal sex. Lube makes the anus smooth and slippery so that a penis can enter it more comfortably. Lube makes sex more enjoyable and also prevents condoms from tearing. Use lots of it!
  • If you feel pain at any point, ask him to stop and be still for a little while he’s inside of you, and then let him try move again. If you’re not enjoying it, ask your partner to stop. You can try again later. It may take several attempts for you to feel comfortable.
  • When you’re having sex, you may feel like you want to go to the toilet. This is natural. In time your body will learn to know the difference between having anal sex and needing to go to the loo.
  • It’s important to have fun, laugh and don’t take it all too seriously. After all, it’s just sex!
  • Remember that the receptive (bottom) is at most risk of HIV infection during bareback (condomless) compared to the top partner.
  • Anal sex without lube can not only be painful but the sensitive lining of the anus is more susceptible to cuts and abrasions during sex. These cuts and internal scrapes allow for HIV that may be present in the top’s cum or pre-cum to get into contact with the bottom’s bloodstream. Using lube helps reduce and tears or cuts to the anus.
  • Using condoms and water-based lubricant is still your best defence against both HIV and STIs (sexually transmitted infections).
  • If you are a bottom who is HIV negative, you should also be using PrEP, the daily HIV prevention pill. While PrEP does not protect you from other STIs it is extremely effective against HIV, even if you do not use condoms.
  • If you are HIV positive, you need to be on ARVs and stay on your treatment. ARVs not only lower your risk of passing HIV onto your partner but also keeps you healthy.
  • Get tested for STIs and HIV every six months. Why not ask for an HIV self-testing kit, so you can test at your own convenience?

Engage Men’s Health in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City can help keep your sex life safe and healthy. Contact us for free condoms and water-based lube as well as free HIV and STI screenings, PrEP, ARVs and HIV self-testing kits. Call or Whatsapp 082 607 1686 for more information.

 

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Are you prepped for the holidays?

It’s that time of the year again; the last rush before you can relax and spend time with your loved ones. For many, it is also party season, so we’d like to give you a few tips to get prepped for the holidays.

  • It is very tempting to drink a lot when you go out. What many guys forget is that the drink you have now will only hit you in 20 min. So that the double shooter you have five minutes after you had a drink five minutes ago, will also only hit you 20 min later. This means that in 20 min, all three drinks are going to hit you at the same time. Try to pace yourself and have non-alcoholic beverages (or water) in-between.
  • If you are on ARVs or PrEP, make sure that you have enough meds to last you over the period between Christmas and New Year. Throw the tablets onto a small side plate or on a surface where they won’t roll or fall off. Physically count your pills and work out till what date you will have enough.
  • If you need to stock up on PrEP or ARVs, contact your provider asap BEFORE they close over the holidays.
  • We know that this time of the year is crazy busy. It’s for this reason that beyond our regular open hours, Engage Men’s Health in Johannesburg (Melville) will have extended hours till 20:00 on Wednesdays and Fridays and till 17:00 on Saturdays. This is from 1 December up to 20 December. The extended hours, unfortunately, do not apply to our other two branches, but please contact Engage Men’s Health in Buffalo City (010 534 8366) and Engage Men’s Health in Nelson Mandela Bay (010 534 8428) directly to make an appointment to ensure you get your meds sorted before the holidays.
  • If you are on ARVs or PrEP, stash one of your tablets in your wallet or maybe a bag you have with you all the time. Wrap the tablet in cling wrap or in a small sealable packet. This is to prevent the tablet from getting wet or damaged. If you end up hooking up with somebody or crash at a friend’s house, then you don’t need to stress because you will have your meds with you.
  • Do the same with two condoms and two sachets of water-based lube. Just be careful where you keep the condoms so that they don’t get damaged. If you keep condoms on you for a long time, be sure to check their expiry date as the older condoms are, the more likely they may be to tear or break.
  • Another tip is to scan your ARV or PrEP script (if that’s how you get your meds) and then email it to yourself. This will help a lot If you should urgently need to get meds in an unfamiliar place. If for example your bag gets stolen, or you lose your meds, you can go to a pharmacy and show them your scanned script on your phone. Ask them if you can buy loose tablets to carry you through till your next refill when you are back at home.
  • ARVs and PrEP are super effective, but only if you take them as you should. Let’s say the time you normally take your ARVs or PrEP is 20:00. If you forget to take them at 20:00, take them the moment you remember or when you can get to your meds. Then take your meds the same as you normally would.
  • If you are HIV negative and not using PrEP, and you had high-risk exposure to HIV, you need to get PEP. High-risk exposure is for example unprotected sex with somebody you don’t know, or if a condom breaks. This needs to happen within 72 hours (3 days) after the incident. You can go to any clinic, doctor or pharmacy and say you need to get PEP and they tell you what to do.
  • If for some reason you get nauseous and throw up after you took your meds, here’s what to do. If you throw up within 1 hour after you take your meds, you need to retake them. (If you get sick after an hour, you will only have to take meds again the next time you are supposed to.)

For all your sexual health needs for the holidays, including free PrEP, ARVs, HIV self-testing kits, STI screening, condoms, and lube contact Engage Men’s Health on 082 607 1686 (remember, we are closed from 20 Dec 2019 to 6 Jan 2020.)

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EMH Festive Season LGBTQ Homeless Drive

Support your community! Please help us clothe and feed homeless LGBT individuals and MSM (men who have sex with men) over the festive season. We are aware of a group that are trying to survive on the streets in Johannesburg.

While Engage provides free sexual health services to the gay, bi and men who have sex with men (MSM) community in Joburg, we are asking you to show your love and help to make a difference where we know there is a need. Any contribution will be greatly appreciated:

• Clothes / shoes
• Toiletries
• Food (tinned or non-perishables)
• Blankets
• Bags (like sports tog bags) as they don’t have a place to put belongings

Engage Men’s Health will have a drop-off point at our clinic in Melville which is behind 27 Boxes on 3rd Ave. Beyond our regular hours, we will have extended hours from 1 to 20 December:
Mondays 8:30 – 16:30
Tuesdays 8:30 – 16:30
Wednesdays 8:30 – 20:00
Thursdays 8:30 – 16:30
Fridays 8:30 – 20:00
Saturdays 9:00 – 17:00

Here are a few sad realities that some LGBT people are faced with:
Suicide amongst the LGBT community over the Christmas period are higher than with heterosexuals, this percentage goes up quite significantly for homeless LGBT people. A disproportionate percentage of people who are homeless and living on the street are from the LGBT community.
LGBT youth are more likely to be homeless because they run away or are evicted due to family conflict surrounding their sexual orientation.
LGBT youth are more likely to be homeless due to physical or sexual abuse experienced at home.
Homeless LGBT people are more likely to be victims of crime than their heterosexual counterparts. Male LGBT youth were more often sexually victimised while homeless than non-LGBT male youth.
LGBT homeless people are more likely to engage in survival sex, or prostitution as a last resort to meet basic needs and due to lack of access to HIV and other STI prevention and treatment, the prevalence is very high.
There are virtually no LGBT housing and shelters in South Africa.

Make this festive season merry and gay! – Let’s shine a light on LGBT family members in need.
You can contact us on 011 500 0934

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This is your new selfie stick – HIV self-testing is here

HIV self-testing is big news and making a difference not only for individuals but also for being able to get a lot more people to test.

Engage Men’s Health offers free oral self-testing kits that allow you to test where and when it suits you. Simply swipe the tester stick on the inside of your mouth and you’ll get a quick update on your HIV status. (You’ll receive more detailed instruction with your kit.)

Here are some benefits in choosing self-testing and other interesting facts:

  • Self-testing is without queues or potential loss of confidentiality or privacy which a lot of people fear when going to a public testing site.
  • The test can be done by yourself, with partners or with friends. Self-testing allows for people to get their own support structures rather than relying on a stranger, like a nurse or healthcare worker. Each of you should use separate test kits and conduct the test, as indicated in the instructions provided.
  • HIV-self tests are 99% accurate but if you receive a positive result, the test must be confirmed at a health facility.
  • We request that you send us a picture of your test result (anonymously if you prefer), whether it’s positive or negative, so that we know that the kits are being used. To send us your test results, for a confirmation test, free PrEP or if you have any other questions or concerns call, message, WhatsApp or send a ‘please call me’ (office hours): 060 985 6008.
  • Seventy-seven countries have adopted HIV self-testing policies, while many others are currently developing them.
  • According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), self-testing has been shown to nearly double the frequency of HIV testing among men who have sex with men.
  • In the past, it was believed that if people didn’t get counselling if they tested positive, it could potentially increase their risk of unmanaged anxiety and the potential for suicide. Pre- and post-test counselling was very important years ago when there was very little to offer patients who tested positive. These days we know how effective ARV treatment is and HIV is seen as a manageable chronic condition and is no longer a life sentence.” The test includes helpline numbers for people to get support if necessary.
  • Self-testing kits checks for the antibodies that your body makes to fight HIV. There is a window period of between six weeks to three months after infection before the body starts to produce these antibodies. Therefore it is important to test regularly.
  • The chances are very slim but not impossible that a test can give a positive result but then give a negative result when tested again. This can happen for all sorts of reasons and is known as a false positive test result. This is why it is so important you get your positive result confirmed by a healthcare worker or doctor who will retest you using a different type of test.
  • It is recommended that if you have one sex partner to test yearly. If you have multiple partners, you should check every three months/or 12 weeks to make sure you know your status.
  • What should I do if I test positive? Don’t panic! Contact us for a confirmation test. If your result is confirmed, we’ll supply you with free ARV medicine to keep you healthy, the HIV under control and your partners safe.
  • What should I do it I test negative? Great news! To stay negative, we recommend you start taking PrEP, the daily HIV prevention pill from Engage Men’s Health. It’s free, easy and very effective, even without the use of condoms!

Get your FREE HIV self-testing kit for yourself (and your partner, too) from our clinic at 27 Boxes in Melville, Johannesburg (call 010 500 0934), our outreach teams in Joburg, Nelson Mandela Bay (call 010 534 8428) and Buffalo City (call 010 534 8366) or at selected venues in these metros.

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Shine On: Dreya’s story

When I was around 12 or 13, we started getting educated on HIV in school. That’s also when something clicked that I had relatives who must’ve been HIV positive, including my mom. It’s also what she passed away from and it’s not something I shy away from. It happened. It’s life. I am not ashamed of what she died. She was a lovely person and a beautiful woman. Back then it wasn’t as it is now. Today, it’s something that can be treated and ARVs are much better.

I was around 18 but still in high school when I wrote a story. I created my own characters and I centred the story around an orphan who lost his parents to HIV. Back then this wasn’t a cliché but it was a reality. Through this story, I got noticed. I think people were touched by it and that was how I started volunteering at HIV organisations and I did it wholeheartedly.

It was in rural areas, mostly taking food from sponsors to orphans and handing out condoms to adults. We would also go to help out with things or just be with them, sit, talk and educate around HIV. This is how I became associated with these organisations. Not knowing that later on, in my future, this knowledge was going to work to my advantage.

In my early 20s, I got sick and my body basically collapsed it was so weak. I went to consult a doctor, which was when I found out I had abdominal TB and learned about my HIV status. It was a shock but I was able to process it because of my HIV volunteer work. I knew that ARVs work and that I can live. I just had to accept the fact that, from then on, I would have to live on medication and that it is important.

It’s just one pill that you take every single day.

As an adult, I naturally gravitated towards the role of healer and a person my friends confided in about personal problems. Even before I was positive myself, I’ve always been that person that people would come to talk to about HIV and the things that go with it. I suppose my outlook on life and how I go about life as a positive person about my status also must play a role in how safe people feel or why people trust me.

I live my life unaffected by HIV. Look at me, I’m healthy. I’m fine. I can walk into a club and I can go dance, have fun, drink. I’m the life of the party! I can even take my meds when I’m in the club. Just a quick pill pop and I’m done!

I still have so many things I want to achieve. I want to counsel and teach. I want to speak, stand proudly and say “Look, this is who I am. I’m living. I’m happy. This hasn’t taken away anything from me. I’m still the same person. I still speak the same. I still dress the same. I still go out the same.” The greatest thing I want to do is settle down with a partner and go travel together.

For guys who recently found out about their status, I want to say that HIV is not a death sentence. It actually isn’t that bad as long as you take your ARVs regularly and stay on them. It’s just one pill that you take every single day. And that’s it…

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Celebrities come out in support of PrEP

South African celebrities, Moshe Ndiki and Bujy Bikwa, are backing a much-needed new project that provides free HIV prevention pills, known as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), to men who have sex with men (MSM).

PrEP is a pill that prevents HIV negative people from getting HIV (proven to be 99% effective if taken daily) and is one of the free services offered by Engage Men’s Health in the Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City metros. These services are provided through a clinic in Melville, Johannesburg and mobile outreach teams in all three cities.

Both Moshe and Bujy, who are openly gay actors, presenters and media personalities, believe that the word needs to get out about this game-changer in HIV prevention. It’s especially relevant to MSM who are at higher risk of HIV infection and often face stigma and discrimination at mainstream facilities.

The Engage Men’s Health #PrEPup campaign is a very personal one for Moshe. “This means a lot to me! It is much more influential when someone who is gay passes the message on to other gay people, and society at large, to educate them and make them more aware.”

He feels that PrEP represents a new kind of freedom for gay, bi and other MSM. “It’s always good to know that we are safe, generally as human beings but also in our relationships when partaking in sexual activities with our partners. It’s one thing to not feel free outside because of societal issues but it’s another to not feel free in your own bedroom as well because of the fear of HIV.”

Bujy got involved in the #PrEPup campaign to help make a difference in his community. “This is a revolution! For decades we have been fighting for the right to breathe, the right to exist and most importantly to live a longer inspirational life,” Bujy says. “PrEP means that as a gay man you can protect yourself and not wait to be infected by the virus. A pill a day and you do life!”

The #PrEPup campaign is also being supported by the influential Feather Awards, which hosts an annual much-talked-about celebration of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community and its allies. The Feathers, Moshe and Bujy, will be regularly sharing the #PrEPup message to their large base of social media followers – giving them the facts about PrEP and where to get it.

Dawie Nel, Director of Engage Men’s Health, believes that sharing this information through personalities makes a lot of sense. “Stigma, fear and lack of awareness are hampering the fight against HIV. Having proudly gay personalities speaking out not only helps educate the public about PrEP but also makes a significant dent in the shame that many MSM feel about their sexual behaviour or identity. Lifting this stigma makes it more likely that they will seek out welcoming services like Engage Men’s Health,” says Nel.

Gay, bi and other MSM who want to find out how to get PrEP and other sexual health services can call or Whatsapp 082 607 1686, search on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit www.engagemenshealth.org.za.

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Shine On: Wade’s story

I’ve been living with HIV for over two years. I was diagnosed with HIV on 29 March 2017. I found out after a friend informed me that he had tested positive for HIV. I knew I would need to be tested too, and we rushed to the emergency rooms where a doctor used a rapid HIV test to determine my status.

I’ll never forget the day I was diagnosed. My heart was hitting my chest so hard I thought it would break my ribs. I saw those dreaded two lines appear right in front of me – I knew this meant I was HIV-positive. I remember feeling scared, I thought I was going to die. I never knew much about HIV/Aids and the doctor didn’t offer me any kind of post-test counselling. I went home and immediately started doing research and self-educating myself on this human condition.

Telling my mom that I am HIV-positive was probably the hardest part of this journey. I knew it would hurt her, I knew it would disappoint her; I am her only child. Coming out as HIV-positive [was] 100 times worse than coming out as gay. She went to bed and didn’t say much, she said she needed to process it. It took her a while to come to terms with my diagnosis. She felt guilty that she wasn’t able to protect me. I tried going into education mode, trying to tell her that I was still going to live a normal life, but at the time I still knew very little about HIV/Aids.

If you are HIV-positive and reading this; don’t give up! There is life after an HIV diagnosis.

I thought I was going to die then but people living with HIV who take their ARV treatment are expected to live normal, long and healthy lives. I also thought I would never find love or have a sex life again. But we now know that ‘U=U’ (undetectable = untransmittable) means that a person living with HIV, who takes ARVs and maintains an undetectable viral load cannot transmit the virus to their sexual partner(s). U=U is based on science and supported by many international medical organisations.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked on dating apps if I was “clean”, and how many times I’ve had to explain that although I am HIV-positive, I’m not “dirty”. It’s stigma and it simply refers to the negative attitudes and beliefs (often erroneous ones) about people living with HIV.

We have seen more awareness about HIV/Aids in the LGBTQ community, but I still think we need to do more. Despite our access to the internet, social media and numerous campaigns addressing HIV/Aids, we do not seem to be grasping basic concepts. In a country ranking first in the world for the prevalence of HIV/Aids, our health literacy efforts should be reviewed.

We need to encourage young sexually active adults to test for HIV regularly. HIV self-testing will open the door for many more people to know their HIV status and find out how to get ARV treatment. We also need to have more conversations about U=U. All people living with HIV have the right to meaningful and accurate information about their social, sexual and reproductive health.

If you are HIV-positive and reading this; don’t give up! There is life after an HIV diagnosis. I wish the best of luck to you and your healing process. Let go of the judgement. Continue to look after yourself and most importantly, forgive yourself and others. Remember to take your ARVs daily, it is lifesaving!

It’s easy, free and effective! Contact Engage Men’s Health for free HIV testing, treatment and ongoing support to make sure you continue to Shine On! Melville, Joburg: 010 500 0934 | Port Elizabeth: 010 534 8428 | East London: 010 534 8366

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Shine On: Gerald’s Story

I grew up in Zimbabwe and came to South Africa in 2006 as the economic problems we had were too hectic. So the main reason I came here was for better job opportunities and the hope of a better life. The other significant reason was that obviously life in Zimbabwe for gay people was not very good. Being gay was something you had to keep under wraps from the world and couldn’t practice. This has improved a little subsequently but not by much.

I arrived in South Africa when I was 21. Though I had some family here, it was terrifying initially. At first, I didn’t mix with gay people and suppressed my sexuality. After I got my first job, I made friends who introduced me to a few bars who were gay-friendly. Gradually I integrated with gay people when I realised that it was a lot freer here for LGBT people and legal too.

My initial knowledge of responsible or safe sex was the minimum. I did know that you need to use a condom to avoid HIV but that was that.

A few years later, I was seeing someone and only after we had been seeing each other for a while did he tell me he is positive. He urged me to get tested. Only later did I realise he had known his staus for a while but withheld the information from me. When I went for the HIV test I was informed that I am positive. I was disappointed, felt betrayed and very hurt because I trusted him. I also was disappointed in myself for not being more responsible.

In the initial phase, after I found out, I removed myself from the scene and didn’t feel sexual at all. I had dreams about HIV and it was a scary time because I knew it’s incurable. I stressed about what my health would be like in a few years to come. Did I just recklessly cut my own life short? I made some lifestyle changes to live healthier. I knew that I had to live a certain way if I wanted to live. I knew nothing about ARVs (HIV medicine), but with the counselling, I understood much better.

I still live a full life. I can do everything that I always did before. Nothing changed.

These days you go onto ARVs immediately when you get a positive result, but in those days you had to wait for your CD4 (infection-fighting cells) to drop to 200 before they initiated you on treatment. I’m glad it has changed because it’s horrible to wait till your immune system drops to that level and then having to get your CD4 up again when you start treatment.

I heard a lot of things about side effects which frightened me, but I didn’t experience any side effects.

What makes it easier is having support, because if people understand what you’re going through, then they will know how to treat you and they are more sympathetic. I’ve been lucky in that the people I disclosed to have not been negative about it or rejected me. Their support was amazing.

I haven’t had major problems with disclosing to partners, but it can still be difficult when you just meet somebody because you do not know what their reaction will be. Disclosing is different with every person. When I meet people, I first want to get to know them before having sex. But when the situation or vibe feels like we are going to be sexual, that is when I bring it up and discuss it.

Most guys have been very accepting, but some got nervous or scared after I disclosed. I do not blame them, I think it’s a natural reaction to get worried. Once I have informed them and educated them a bit on the topic they relax and we continue to play safe.

I have a group of positive friends now and we help each other to be adherent (stay on treatment). We remind each other when we drink or party, We support each other and it makes the whole initial scary phase doable.

I hope that by coming out in the Shine On campaign that I can help other people because I have been on both sides. So many guys I know feared to go for the test, they didn’t know their status and then later would get a positive result. And I’ve seen what it can do. I want my story to motivate people to go and test.

I still live a full life. I can do everything that I always did before. Nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is that I take one pill before I go to bed. That’s it! I’m planning for my future and I want to be successful in my work. I also want to be married at some stage, settle down and have a home with someone. Just not now, I still have lots of time to do that!

The Shine On campaign promotes that getting and staying on HIV treatment will keep you healthy. It can also lower your HIV to undetectable levels which means that the virus cannot be passed on to your partner or partners.

It’s easy, free and effective! Contact Engage Men’s Health for free HIV testing, treatment and ongoing support to make sure you continue to Shine On! Melville, Joburg: 010 500 0934 | Port Elizabeth: 010 534 8428 | East London: 010 534 8366

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