Woman of rubies

Saidy Brown

when i found out at 14 that i was hiv positive, i didn’t think i would live to see 18,i am turning 22 this year – saidy brown, activist & hivictor

Since Saidy Brown tweeted about her status, thousands of people all over the world have re-shared her hopeful message, with many praising her courage for speaking publicly about her own experience with the virus.

Activist Saidy, who describes herself as an HIVictor in her Twitter bio, has been speaking to the BBC about the extraordinary reaction to her post, why it took so long for her to be diagnosed and how she is turning a predicament to a cause.

Meet Saidy
I am a 21 year old girl from a small township in the North West called Itsoseng,I am a sister,a daughter a niece and an HIVictor.

Finding out
When I was 14, I went to a youth day event to represent my school. At the event there were people who do HIV tests, counselling and everything else.

“When we got there, they asked us if we would like to test. I was one of the people who got tested. That’s how I found out.
“I was shocked, I was in denial, I couldn’t believe it. I was only 14 at the time so I was like: ‘How? I’m only 14… I haven’t done anything. How?’
“But when I got home and told my aunt and she was the one who told me that no, I’d actually been born with it. My parents had died from Aids-related diseases, which I had never known.
“My mum passed away when I was 10, my dad when I was nine.”

Living with HIV
I initially wanted to cry, but I couldn’t because I knew that if I cried, everyone else would know before I even tell them, so I just kept it to myself. I was confused though, I mean, I was 14,I could not understand how I could possibly have HIV. “I have not necessarily been discriminated against. I can say that I was discriminating against my own self, from around 14 until I was 18, because I didn’t want to talk about it. Only my family knew; no-one else. Once I reached 18 I decided to start disclosing. It’s been better and wiser. “Where I come from [Itsoseng, a small town in South Africa’s North West Province], I’m the first person to ever come forward and talk openly this way about my status. “But the response and the support is there because whether it’s me or someone else, the reality is that people are living with HIV, whether we talk about it or not.” “

Viral tweet that got people’s attention all over the world
I feel happy at the fact that people saw that tweet and they were interacting, meaning we were talking about a subject that is deemed “unspoken”, so I was happy. I’ve always disclosed my status. I started disclosing it when I was 18. I usually use Facebook to talk to people about HIV and Aids,” she says. “But I’ve been having this urgent feeling to post it on Twitter, so it wouldn’t be just limited to my Facebook friends. I needed the world to get into conversations about this virus.”

Love life
“I’m in a relationship currently. It’s very amazing because usually I disclose right at the beginning of the relationship. “So once the person decides that they want to stay with me then it’s all good, but if they decide to leave, it’s still fine.
“I won’t hate them because people still have their own issues regarding HIV. I don’t really blame the person who says: ‘No I can’t stay with you because you’re HIV-positive’. I’ve had someone say that to me in the past. It hurt a lot. But after a while they came back and apologised. We’re on speaking terms now, it’s fine. I’ve forgiven them.”

What Inspires Me
I am inspired by my courage to live despite everything bad that comes my way, my fighting spirit.

Turning my Predicament to Passion
I knew that pity was only gonna kill me. I wanted to speak up for my parents as well, because I feel like had they been more accepting, they probably would still be here.

Scared of death?
Yes, I have been through stages where I genuinely thought I was going to die at some point, as I stated in that tweet, never expected to even see my 18th birthday.

Staying healthy
“I’m really not a person who is more conscious about what I eat, but I make sure that I take my pills at the right time every night. I don’t skip them.

Connecting with other “HIVictors”
Currently, I just connect to most people through social media, it has been a great help in me getting my story across. Having people tell me that I gave them a new meaning to life, that my story encouraged them not to give up, especially my fellow HIVictors, is a reward for me.

HIVictors who inspire me
I love Criselda Dudumashe, I also love my big sister and mentor Lebogang Brenda Motsumi. They give me all the hope in the world.

My strength and fighting spirit makes me a Woman of Rubies
The fact that I don’t let my conditions define me. That I fight for healing and once I have healed,I fight to heal everyone else in the similar situation.

Message to women living with HIV
I need for them to understand that the past can never be changed, but we can control our futures… we are not victims, we are HIVictors.

In this article:
Saidy Brown
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