EGPAF Intern on Growing Up With HIV

Bruce is 23 years old and lives in Harare, Zimbabwe. He recently graduated from Midlands State University with a degree in psychology.

Bruce’s mother lives in Botswana and his father died when Bruce was 8 years old. He grew up in Gweru and was raised by his grandmother until he was 13, when his grandmother also passed away. Since then,he has been raised by his aunt.

Growing up, Bruce always had health problems. “Most of the time I was quite sick. I was quite tiny.” He also suffered from pneumonia and herpes.

Bruce’s father died of HIV-related illnesses and his mother tested positive for HIV when Bruce was 15. When he was 16, he was tested for HIV and learned that he too, was living with the disease.

“I wasn’t much surprised,” Bruce says. “All the clues were leading up [to my diagnosis]. I could see the wind, that’s where it was going.”

Bruce was immediately initiated onto antiretroviral therapy (ART). This was a pivotal time in his academic career, as he was set to take a number of exams in the coming months. Sadly, soon after testing positive for HIV, Bruce lost his left eye to an opportunistic infection. Despite all the challenges he faced that year, Bruce passed nine subjects out of ten.

“As time went on, I started getting better,” Bruce says. “I gained weight and my CD4 count went up.”

Bruce eventually became involved in various support groups for adolescents living with HIV. “I was involved with young guys that were like me.,” Bruce says. “It gave me a positive mind about living with HIV. It was quite fun.” Bruce continues to attend HIV/AIDS support groups today.

Bruce does his best to deal positively with HIV-related stigma. “People talk,” Bruce says. “Maybe they don’t say it directly to you. But when they talk…I don’t care that much, whatever they are saying. Because I have a life to live and it’s my own, not theirs. So that’s what really pushes me forward.”

In 2012, Bruce came to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) as an intern in the Zimbabwe communications department. While working for EGPAF, Bruce gained valuable work experience and also learned more about HIV as a public health issue.

Bruce continued to excel at university, in both academics and extra-curricular activities. He competed in karate and won several medals. He speaks publicly about his HIV status and once addressed a member of the Zimbabwean parliament.

Bruce now hopes to continue his studies and is currently looking for post-graduate scholarships. He is interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in public health. He hopes to marry someday, and eventually have children.