Tendayi, age 50/ Harare, Zimbabwe

Stories from an Aging Pandemic

I was a model, I ran the largest modeling agency in Zimbabwe. And I looked the part. Coming from high society, it was rare to find people of my type talking about HIV or to come out in the open to say they were HIV-positive. We have public figures, these celebrities. How come we don’t see them saying that they are HIV positive? It’s like it’s a disease that is only associated for the poor people.

At that time I was only 33 years old, young,  and I had everything. I could do anything that I want, to get a partner or whatever. I started thinking about the idea of disclosure. Just a few weeks before I gave birth to my child, I went public about my HIV status on television.  It was met with mixed reaction. A lot of unpleasant, spiteful things were said about me, but I was ready. Despite all that, no amount of counseling can prepare you for those things.

As time went by, a lot of people who spited me at that time, I would help them. And I’ve seen my friends die. And they will just say it’s cancer, or a small illness or something else. But sometimes you’d see that it’s AIDS-related, and over the time, people started to understand. People in high society die, quietly.