My Biggest Accomplishments
Most people face challenges every day of their lives. When we manage to do something that we feel is noteworthy or that we are proud of, we call it an “accomplishment.” Of course, it is all relative. Where I come from, it was an accomplishment to finish high school, and an accomplishment to stay away from drugs and prostitution.
Many people I know feel that I have accomplished things because I have had the chance to travel, because I have been on TV, or because I have spoken with famous politicians and celebrities. These were exciting moments in my life, and I am happy that I have usually managed to make a good impression and raised awareness and funds for good organizations like EGPAF. However, I do not feel that these are “accomplishments” in the same way many people view them to be.
I view my biggest accomplishments as having my children, keeping them healthy and bringing them up well despite the many challenges I’ve faced. When I lost my daughter Nomthunzi to AIDS over 17 years ago, the life expectancy of people living with HIV in Africa was low. There was a lot of stigma and discrimination because AIDS was viewed as a death sentence. At that time, the idea of me having another child was ridiculed. People would say, “Why would you want to have a child? You will be dead soon, and what would happen to your baby?” “What if your baby is born HIV-positive?” But I made a choice to continue living.
Ten years after I lost my daughter, I had my son, Alexander. Because of the advances in medicine, funding for HIV/AIDS, and policy changes, I felt confident that he would be born HIV-negative, and that I would be around long enough to be a real mother to him. I now have another son, Kulani. I am currently studying for my degree because I am thinking about our future.
It helped that I was open about my HIV status at a time when many people were afraid to tell anyone they were HIV-positive. I volunteered at projects that helped people with HIV, and I sought out a way to get treatment that could help me stay healthy. I made a choice to be 100 percent adherent to my medication, even though it meant taking 13 tablets a day for the rest of my life. I made a choice to never drink alcohol, never smoke, or take drugs, and to look for ways to stay as healthy as possible. My colleagues, family, and friends helped me achieve my goals. Because of this, I managed to survive, and I’ve had the opportunity to live a fulfilling life and witness many victories in our battle against HIV and AIDS.
Really big accomplishments are never achieved alone. The biggest achievements happen when lots of people join forces and work towards a common goal, like fighting against HIV. We are now looking forward to the possibility of an AIDS-free generation – to a day when no child will be born with HIV, and no child has to die. But this will only happen if people like you and me continue to fight for it in every way we can. We can all join hands and help each other to accomplish something. Together, we can change the future.
Florence Ngobeni-Allen is a Foundation Ambassador. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.