Yvonne’s family live without piped water or sanitation but they own three Smartphones, one tablet, a laptop and a TV. Far from being luxuries these devices are likely to be their way out of poverty. Her two oldest daughters are very clever and technologically able.
Yvonne works at the Gugu Dlemini AIDS Foundation. She says:
It took me a long time to come out of that shell that made me less confident, but eventually I thought to myself that it was something I had to do. In my community many people suffer from these situations. It’s also because we are less educated, so we see no reason, or feel ashamed to speak about these kinds of things. We still live in a community that is dominated by men, making women feel less adequate.
As a woman this also affects me. I am also HIV positive, and I am deaf too. This has brought a lot of misunderstandings and difficulties for myself and other people. People find it hard to communicate with me. Some people think that there is something wrong with me. I misinterpret what they are saying. This causes me to distance myself from people. It has also caused problems with my relationships with men in my life as they take advantage of me.
‘My name is Sanele. I am 24 years old. And I am a Zulu man from the rural area of KwaZulu-Natal.
- You can’t be a real man in our culture without having more than one girlfriend.
- In general, being a man means having lots of children, and not looking after them very well.
- For many, being a man also means not sharing your feelings.’
‘I am not that kind of man now. But in the past I have been like that. I have known a lot of suffering in my life, and I want to be different, to be part of the change in our culture.
When I was not yet ten years old, my sister became very ill. I had to take care of her. One day my sister offered me a banana and I broke off a piece to share with my cousins, and they said, “No, our mother told us never to share food with your sister, because she has AIDS.” This made me very angry, because no one had told me that my sister had AIDS. It makes me even angrier now. No one can be infected with HIV or AIDS by sharing food or sleeping in the same bed or providing care for a sick person. It only comes from unprotected sex or from sharing needles as part of injecting drug use or from mother to child in the womb. In the rural areas we are so uneducated about HIV. This needs to change.
When I was a teenager, I started to smoke and drink and have sex without wearing a condom. I had three children with two different mothers. Some would say that I was a normal Zulu man. But last year, I decided to restart my life, to become a new kind of man. I went to get a test for HIV, and I prepared myself for the fact that the test could be positive. Until this exhibition only my partner and two friends know the results of that test. May I share the results with you?
I am HIV-positive.
And now I am the man I want to be.’
Xoli’s teenage years were blighted by a ‘Blesser’ – an older man who keeps a younger girl. He gave her gifts and paid for her schooling. He also infected her with the HIV virus.
‘When I was 16 I first fell pregnant, I lost the child, that’s how I found out I had HIV. They told me my child died from AIDS-related illness.
I didn’t try for 8 years, I was afraid any child I had would get sick.’
Now she is happily married with children and works as a patient advocate at her local clinic.
‘My fear came around the fact that I’ll never have a family – that love That was my greatest fear Marriage is something I wanted from an early age I never had that family warmth. Now it feels good.’