Insights from ICASA: A 22 Year Old’s Journey to a Positive Life

By Jill Davis | December 16, 2013

“I never thought I would have a boyfriend or get married. And today I can say, I have a boyfriend and I have disclosed my HIV status to him."

Racine Tucker-Hamilton

On December 10, 2013, Bwalanda Chibesa, a teen mentor from the Tisamala Teen Mentors program in Zambia, was invited to share her story and serve as the moderator for the Launch of the Global Guidelines on HIV Testing and Counseling, Treatment and Care in Adolescents.

Bwalanda, a 22 year old law student, has learned to live positively.

Three years ago, Bwalanda learned she was HIV-positive. An orphan living with her aunt and uncle, she was scared to disclose her status. Her country and society believes that HIV-positive people should be secluded and that they don't deserve to live.

In 2012, she was introduced to the Tisamala Teen Mentors program where she learned how to live positively, how to adhere to medications, how to have healthy relationships and how to disclose her status. "Without the support and training I have received in that program, things would have been very different for me," she said. "Now I am living a happy and healthy life. I was given the confidence and knowledge that I can live a long, healthy life. I never thought I would have a boyfriend or get married. And today I can say, I have a boyfriend and I have disclosed my HIV status to him."

Bwalanda told the group that she plans to study medicine, in addition to law, and that she would like to open her own hospice to help people like her access support and treatment at an even earlier stage. Hosted by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), the meeting highlighted the importance for additional HIV testing and treatments of adolescents (those 10 - 19 years old).

Jill Davis is the director of brand management and interactive communication.

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Insights from ICASA is a blog series featuring the stories and thoughts of EGPAF experts and staff participating in and attending the 17th International Conference on STIs in Africa.