VMS HIV+ Ambassadors On the Air
This summer, two of our HIV+ Ambassadors, Humbulani Mudau, age 21, who was born with HIV, and Petrus Muthelo, who has been living with HIV for 18 years, were live on the radio sharing their experiences as HIV+ men on a men’s talk show. Both men have been part of VMS’s HIV+ support group from the start in 2007 and through TVEP, they were approached by Brothers for Life (one of South Africa’s largest NGOs that focuses on men’s health) and invited to participate in a radio program focusing on men’s health.
Humbulani and Petrus were thrilled at the opportunity to share their stories with a larger audience. Every Tuesday from the February 14th to May 5th, they were live on the local SABC radio station, Phalaphala FM, which has over one million listeners. Each week, they spoke candidly about a different topic and encouraged men to get tested and know their status. They also emphasized the importance of disclosure and starting ARV treatment sooner, rather than later. Through this talk show, they continued to spread the message that HIV does not discriminate and that everyone, including men, are responsible for keeping themselves and their partners informed and healthy.
The radio show inspired lots of engagement from the community—many calls and emails came into the station each time they spoke, commending the men for their courage and the good work these guys are doing in the community. On one of the shows, the host asked people who were HIV+ to call in and to our surprise, we received several calls from people that are HIV+ and were willing to share their experiences, which points to the continual reduction of HIV stigmatization we are starting to see in the area. One young lady, age 20, even went to the radio station and demanded to see the talk show host. She said she wanted to know how to contact the Ambassadors and learn more about how they found the courage to disclose, as she is also HIV+ but has not told anybody. Humbulani ended up meeting up with her and talking to her, and now she has disclosed her status and has joined the VMS support group.
In addition to spreading their “know your status” message, Humbulani and Petrus themselves serve as an inspiration to others. Both of them have publically disclosed their status and are living full, healthy, productive lives with the help of ARVs. Not only are they HIV+ Ambassadors, but Petrus is also a farmer, and Humbulani is writing his grade 12 exams this year. Together, they are a perfect example that anyone can live a normal life with HIV as long as they take their medication on time.
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