Writer chronicles life with HIV

MASERU — A proud mother of two who has been living with HIV for the past 11 years on Tuesday launched her story chronicling her life with the virus.

‘Malehloa Kalati’s Getting Close and Personal with HIV was published in a book, Whisper Not, which was launched at Manthabiseng Convention Centre.

Kalati is among 15 African individuals who compiled a series of stories about their lives beyond HIV.

Speaking at the launch, Kalati told guests of how hard the journey of acceptance has been for her.

“After losing my husband to Aids-related diseases, I went for a test and found out that I was not only infected but was (now suffering from) Aids.

“I could not believe it. I was in denial and confused and didn’t know how to disclose that to my family,” she said.

Kalati added: “I became so ill that I had to tell my sister who then told the rest of the family and ever since I have been getting support.”

She said she was approached by The Openly Positive Trust, an organisation for people infected and affected by HIV, to write a story of her life before and after HIV.

“I wrote my story.

“I wish I can receive assistance in translating it from English to Sesotho so I can reach all Basotho people infected and affected by HIV,” she said.

Kalati says her story tells of how the virus almost ruined her life.

“After learning my status, my life became upside down.

“I did stupid things such as drinking traditional herbs because I was afraid of disclosing my status in case my family would discriminate against me.

“I had no knowledge of HIV at all and that affected my actions but after I was diagnosed with meningitis, I started to become positive.”

She said her story is dedicated to everyone.

“I don’t want anyone making the same mistakes I made. I was lucky to survive but ignorance and lack of information about HIV has killed many.

“This is a journey we are all travelling so we need to unite and fight against HIV and not people living with it,” Kalati said.

She said she has learnt to live with the disease.

“HIV is part of me; we both respect each other because we travel together in this journey of life.”

According to the chairperson of Openly Positive Trust (OPT), Elaine Maane, Whisper Not is meant to break the barriers of discrimination.

“I have been living with HIV for 15 years and I live openly.

“Today marks the launch of our third publication since our (Openly Positive Trust) was established in 2007.

“Whisper Not is not a compilation of people living with HIV only, but we have three authors who have been significantly affected,” Maane said.

She said OPT helps build a supportive environment for people with HIV and Aids to live positively and disclose their status.

“Through our story-telling series, we aim to encourage people to live openly with HIV by sharing our stories as people living with and affected by the virus.

“We try to engage all people from different backgrounds to show that HIV is not for the selected few but it’s global,” Maane said.

The book covers a wide age range from Bonga who is now 21 to 82-year-old Jan.

“The book enables people to tell their stories and speak out freely without fear of stigma,” Maane said.

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