Living A resilient life full of hope in the times of HIV

Monday, June 29, 2020
Ts'epang Maboee
Ntate Mizo Photography

 

I am Ts'epang Maboee, a 21- year- old, born and bred in Mafeteng district, Lesotho. We (my three beautiful sisters and I) were raised by a single mother. Our father passed away when I was only a year and a few months. I didn't get the chance to really know him.  At the age of 10, my mother also passed away, and her death left us in misery. My maternal grandmother always persuaded me to go and get tested for HIV after my mother’s death, but I was reluctant because I didn't understand why she was so concerned. On December 12, 2012, I finally decided to get tested for HIV. Well, I must admit, I wasn't nervous because I knew I had not engaged in any sexual activities. I was told while growing up that someone can only get infected with HIV if they had engaged in sexual activities with an infected person.

I tested positive. I was born with the virus. My life changed immediately since I had to now learn to take medication and it wasn't an easy route at all. I never wanted anyone to know about my status, but eventually people learned about it.  Writing has always helped me through tough times. So, I had a little diary in which I wrote all the challenges I came across, I always had it in my backpack every time I went to school. Unfortunately, some of my high school classmates found it and started spreading information around campus that I was HIV positive. It was hard for me to continue with my everyday routine since I wasn't ready to disclose. I had suicidal thoughts and even wanted to quit going to school. I was able to complete high school and then enrolled at the National University of Lesotho. That's when I started talking about my status openly because I learned that most people are still struggling to accept their statuses and to adhere to their medication. So, I wanted to change people's perspective on how they perceived HIV. I even nicknamed my antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) "jelly tots.'' 

In 2018, I heard about the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe) Project led by the Catholic Relief Services  and funded by USAID through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). I knew immediately that I wanted to be part of it as it was aimed at empowering Young Women and Adolescent Girls.  As a DREAMS ambassador, I was able to gain more courage and resilience through the education and support that we were given. My favorite quote is "HIV is just a virus but stigma is a deadly disease." 

Though I’m no longer part of the program, I am still receiving support from the Catholic Relief Services where they call me regularly to check if I’m still fine. Personally, I’m continuing the fight against HIV related stigma through social media platforms with my hashtag or slogan "No Shame About Being HIV+." I interact with many people in Lesotho who need some advice about how I manage to live healthy with HIV and continuously take my treatment. I also encourage those living with HIV to take their “Jelly Tots”  (ARVs) even during this COVID period. I’m glad that I can also make a difference in the lives of other people, while also helping myself by talking to others about my status.

Ts'epang still continues to work with HIV/AIDS organizations in Lesotho that include Ntlafatso and CRS.

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Last updated: June 30, 2020

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