SOUTH AFRICA – Hi I’m Cindy Pivacic, having always had the type of personality to be on the lookout for a new challenge. I was fairly gob smacked when I got the biggest one of all. Having been in Sales & Marketing all my life, I found myself retrenched, HIV positive (2004) and nowhere to turn to, except inward.
Defying numerous health issues, I decided to take on the world by disclosing my status.
I began speaking in public, training and later authored two books (The Deadly Seducer and Error, Terror &Triumph) related to my HIV journey and working life. This developed into my PR Ninja business (Public Relations). All of the above lead to a weekly show hosting an online slot on #HashtagRadio station, providing yet another opportunity to engage with the public.
The purpose of going public was and still is, to encourage people to know their HIV status. So that they receive the correct treatment or maintain their HIV negative status, and to know that they are not alone.
Why knowing your HIV status can save your life
You don’t have to go through the process of testing and receiving your results on your own. There are many organizations and other HIV positive individuals that will walk alongside you through your journey of a positive diagnosis. I am always, extremely happy to walk with you prior to, and through the testing process. Let’s celebrate your HIV negative result together. The process of pre and post test counseling is particularly important, so that you have all the facts before you head off for what can be a frightening test.
Sadly, from my experience with young people, the most feared result of an HIV positive test is the person having to tell their Mother. You do not have to do that alone, there are options open to you. The worst thing you can do is NOT get tested and not know your HIV status. That is detrimental to your health.
Recently, the Department of Health in Limpopo revealed that 36 pupils between the ages of 10 and 19 are pregnant and 31 pupils have been infected with HIV in the Mulenzhe area.
This is unacceptable and the education of HIV and Aids needs to be addressed.
Having said all that, being diagnosed is not the end of the World. However, fill your life with additional hardships which you most certainly want to avoid at all costs.
Effects of Being HIV Positive
To give you some insight into what the effects of being HIV positive are, let me share a little of my journey.
In 2004, I was diagnosed with HIV & Aids. By 2008 I was exposed to Cancer and TB Meningitis. I had two Strokes and Shingles four times in one year. And I had Pneumonia… all that in a space of four years.
In March of this year I had a massive heart attack leading to a double bypass, allegedly unrelated to HIV. But according to some research I did, because HIV affects your immune system, your body will be inflamed as it tries to fight the infection, like a constant low simmer.
This kind of inflammation has been linked to heart disease. Some drugs you take for HIV can also make heart disease more likely. The fact that I have heart disease and cholesterol in my family, and HIV positive makes it twice as likely to suffer from heart disease.
All is not lost and I am still here to tell the tale. I manage my health to the best of my ability.
So What’s Next After Being HIV+ ?
Fortunately, from putting myself out as an HIV Speaker, I have been able to offer a safe space for people to connect with me. They get the necessary information to guide them to the next level. I find that people want to speak to someone who is HIV positive, has travelled and survived the journey.
There has been so much progress but I get that people are still reluctant to go to a public clinic as they feel overly exposed. There are other options. You can test at your local pharmacies for instance. There are some really well priced Doctors that are available and admittedly, I got to them too.
Once people hear my personal story they approach me for guidance, especially if they have been reluctant to test. They either contact me via my WhatsApp, Facebook or phone. Which goes to show that more people would get helped if more were open about their HIV status.
Why get tested?
Early diagnosis is critical in preventing life-threatening health situations and fighting the spread of HIV. Knowing your status will permit you to take steps to protect your health and the health of others. If you know you are HIV positive and pregnant, you can take medications and other safety measures.
Are you at risk?
Anyone can become infected with HIV, but you are at greater risk if you have ever:
- Shared an injection needle and/or syringe.
- Had unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with multiple sex partners, anonymous partners, or men who have sex with men.
- Been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB) or a sexually transmitted disease such as syphilis.
- Had unprotected sex and not been tested in the last six months/year?
- And, had unprotected sex with somebody who would answer yes to any of the above questions.
You Can Still Live A Long Life
I am 60 years old, have been HIV positive for 14 years and survived all the acquired diseases related to Aids. In addition to that, a massive heart attack resulting in a double bypass, why should you not test?
If I can survive all of that, there should be no excuse for you to fear anything at all. If you are concerned, reach out to the public figures that are HIV positive and offering their support, it’s as easy as that.
Keep in mind that:
U=U expresses the fact that people living with HIV who take antiretroviral medications daily as prescribed and who maintain a durable undetectable viral load; do not transmit HIV to their sexual partners.
When a person has had an undetectable viral load for at least six months and maintains good adherence. There is effectively no risk that he or she will sexually transmit the virus.
My next book, starting in 2019 will address harnessing your resilience, combating fear and leading a purposeful life beyond a life threatening illness.
Life is all about choices! Figure out your own identity and strive to make your journey full of purpose and something of incredible value to you and your peers.
If you need support or guidance, find me here:
WhatsApp: 073 73 96 044
Google: Cindy Pivacic