A 27-year-old woman has become instant internet celebrity after openly sharing her HIV status on social media and shining as a light to many like her.
The pretty woman identified as Lebogang Brenda Motsumi from South Africa went public about living with the HIV virus about three years ago in her country, but has recently started gaining popularity across the continent, where people living with the condition largely still face stigma.
Lebo, as she is popularly referred to, makes it clear that even though she is living with the life-threatening virus, she choses not to be a victim, but rather has a positive outlook on life as the commander of her own life.
She melted many hers on Saturday July 9, 2016 after sharing an inspirational story of her survival. The HIV activist encourages those infected to regain control of their lives, often using her own story to help educate her audiences.
In past media interviews, she shared that she found out about her HIV status in 2009 aged 20, after an ex-boyfriend who was famous revealed that he was HIV-positive in a media interview.
“I found out in 2009 on the 15th of August. I dated a guy who is well known. I only found out after reading an article he did speaking out on his status and saying he is sick. After reading the articles I did have a feeling I could be HIV positive but I was in denial. I ignored it and never tested because the media always show poor people with HIV and I didn’t think it could happen to me,” Lebogang told South Africa’s Youth Village in a 2013 interview.
She told South Africa’s DRUM magazine that the late Kwaito singer and producer Tebogo ‘Zombo’ Ndlovu infected her with the virus.
“I didn’t love him. He was famous and I wanted the fame, but all he gave me was HIV. As a fun-loving but naive 17-year-old, I imagined the headlines: “Zombo’s girlfriend pregnant,” with a glossy shot of us as a happy couple,” Lebo said, according to DRUM.
Zombo, born in 1979, passed on in February 2008, a month after revealing in the media that he was HIV-positive.
Lebo said that it took her almost two years to accept her status:
“I got diagnosed with HIV in 2009 and I only accepted my status in November 2011. I was pregnant and I had to take ARVs since I had to protect my daughter. In early 2011 I went to some church and they prayed for me and I thought I’m fine and I went back to living my life drinking and partying. Since I was not looking sick I thought there was nothing wrong so I went back to living my life until I got very sick in August, and I came to the decision that HIV is real and it’s for me to move on for my family and daughter. It’s for me to accept it and live positively. I then joined a youth support group and I noticed that I wasn’t the only one living with HIV there were also some young people living with it,” said the mother of one baby Meekah, who is HIV-negative.
Today, she not only runs her own support organisation, but also sits in several AIDS awareness boards and speaks to youth in various events about living positively and also staying negative.
HIV/AIDS child activist the late Nkosi Johnson is one of her role models, who she said of:
“I am finishing off from where he left off, he was fighting for people to access ARVs, I am fighting for people to not get infected.”
“Good morning, my name is Lebogang Brenda Motsumi aka African Queen. I am NOT HIV, I am LIVING with HIV. I am not the virus, the virus lives in me. I am not defined by HIV, but I define HIV.”
“Selfie at the pharmacy while I wait for my stash (ARV’S). This is not any easy journey, having to commit to medication every day for the rest of your life is rather hard. #greaterthanHIV”
“Let’s stop putting a face to the HIV virus. No one is immune to HIV. The H in HIV stands for Human. Simply meaning anyone can get infected. Let’s get tested so we can protect ourselves and partners. I challenge 10 people who have never tested to so today. This is about you and no one else. I am living with HIV and it does not define me.”
Even though she believes science will one day find a cure to HIV, she believes in another cure, as the world awaits on the scientists:
“I always tell people that there already is a cure. For me a person’s cure is their mind. Once you take your medication and live your life positively then you will be fine and you have already cured yourself.”
Her greatest piece of advice to the youth is the very same one that most have likely heard over and over again: abstaining or use of protection:
“If you can’t wait to get married to have sex , please use a condom and don’t base your decision on someone’s physical attributes or financial status. If you are a girl it’s ok to buy and have condoms. If you like partying and going out always carry condoms with you. Both guys and women can be unfaithful and you can never really know what your partner gets up to in your absence so be safe! If you can’t stand condoms then abstain!”