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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 12:11 GMT
'Nothing can get me down'
As part of a BBC series on Aids, people living with HIV from around the world tell their own stories in their own words.


Mally with Fanikie and Fanikie's cousin Buster
Foster son Fanikie (right) is always telling Mally to exercise more
Mally, 52, lives near the town of Nelspruit in South Africa. He describes his full life with his Swazi foster child Fanikie, a Border collie cross called Jack and a foul-mouthed parrot called Goenk.

HIV appeared in my life silently. I was not aware of it but understood where it most likely came from.

I am gay and had countless sexual partners. A letter from our local blood bank broke the news indirectly. They told me to go to see my doctor - I ignored it!

Just over six years ago, I got seriously ill, the worst flu ever, no regular medication helped. I couldn't keep food down, couldn't sleep, had aches and pains and lost an incredible amount of weight. The doctor's diagnosis was flu!

Then I developed pneumonia. I was to be hospitalised but refused, I was on strong medication and being an idiot - got into my car and drove home, only to awake three weeks later in hospital.

HIV test

I had fallen asleep at the wheel and drove into a ditch. The pneumonia persisted and a nurse suggested an HIV test, the doctors told her to go clean the bed-pans.

I am alive and well and have no intention of leaving this planet for a considerable time to come
I inquired about HIV and the doctor said it was unlikely as HIV had not been reported in Nelspruit as yet but he kept tripping over his words to such an extent that I insisted on the HIV test.

Result: Positive. Diagnosis: Full blown Aids.

My local doctor knew as much about HIV as I do about brain surgery, I made an appointment with a specialist in Johannesburg, 300kms away from where I live.

The diagnosis was confirmed.

Finding a friend

Initially I dropped into a deep depression and contemplated suicide.

But on the one hand I had Fanikie, who I started fostering shortly before I got pneumonia.

His father is an indigent labourer and intelligent Fanikie needed a chance. I feed, clothe and send him to school, he lives with me as my son. He is not a sexual partner.

And on the net I stumbled across a support group, and joined it. It was phenomenal.

I wrote to and met an older guy named Arthur. He explained what all the HIV terminology meant, what was bad and what was good.

Arthur then showed me his photos of his recent trip to Russia and China. Here was a man riddled with HIV for many years who was living, travelling, and making new friends.

I realised that I was not going to die soon.

Arthur also mentioned that a positive attitude is one of the best defences against the virus.

This is where my life changed dramatically. From being the shallow "looking for a lay" type, I started noticing flowers, sun-sets, wild birds and beautiful scenery.

Music had a softer and more meaningful appeal. I had passed a marker on life's path and could not go back. I learned to live a full life in parallel to HIV.

Shallow from the true

It wasn't all moonlight and roses, many friends on hearing of my status virtually ran shrieking for the hills and were never seen again.

Others are understanding, and support me 100%. HIV sorts the shallow from the true friends!!

Mally and Fanikie's old home
Prejudice pushed Mally and Fanikie out of their old home
We have recently had to move home due to others' ignorance and bias.

We lived in a small community where I had created a wonderful albeit small garden.

My status was not kept a secret but not advertised. Some tenants heard of this and Fanikie and myself were labelled unclean.

Life was made unbearable and insults flew within earshot. Fanikie is not positive and I could not have him live under these unpleasant conditions.

We looked at a few other rentable cottages and found a wonderful home, spacious, not in a community, and with a neglected garden - what a wonderful challenge!

We are still finding our feet in the new home. We have decided to keep my infection a secret as ignorance and bias is a nasty enemy!

Fanikie is a soccer fanatic, he is very fit and apart from a bit of gardening, I am the couch potato. Fanikie wants me to join him, his girlfriend Thelma and the soccer team for a jog - no thank you!

Alive

I smoke 30 cigarettes per day and about the same at night. I consume alcohol on rare occasions and never do recreational drugs.

I have a healthy "stash" of Viagra for the odd naughty occasion along with a healthy supply of condoms.

I have an active and busy day at the factory where I do computer design work, and keep an eye on the manufacturing, see clients etc.

I have never been as well as I am at present. Nothing can get me down.

I know that I may have to change medication at some time in the future and that I will be on medication for life, but I am alive and well and have no intention of leaving this planet for some time to come.

There is just too much life to live.


The following comments reflect the balance of views we received:

With such positive approach, victory on hand
Keenly, Blantyre, Malawi
Mally, you are a shinning example to people with AIDS especially here in Africa. We need such courage and determination to combat this killer disease. With such positive approach, victory on hand.
Keenly, Blantyre, Malawi

Mally, I can only say, you will go to heaven where ever it is. What a beautiful story. I nearly chocked reading it, holding back tears as I quickly remembered your strength and courage to tell us your personal journey. There are many good kind people on the great sad earth. And you are one of them. And thank you. I wish you and young Fanikie all the best.
Kenya Kala, Melbourne. Australia

Dear Mally, thank you for your sharing. I learn so much from you about a real life. I hope you can fright down this virus in some days. Long life to you!
Terry Chan, Hong Kong

Congratulation's Mally for sharing your story with the world. You really have changed my way of thinking as well as life style towards people living with HIV/AIDS. God bless you and continue the good fight against this killer because you've shown how positive thinking helps in fighting this killer.
DARROLL ALLAN TAGOE, ACCRA GHANA

Congratulations Mally, I strongly feel that your story will greatly assist fight discrimination and stigma. When people read about it, they will know that shunning people living with HIV is not the answer. Take Care.
Muzinge Nampito, Journalist - Radio Choice, Lusaka, Zambia

Mally, you grab life and go with it. Your star shines for the selflessness and love you give. Thank you
Freda, Ontario, Canada

Mally very few people can decide to cope and show the resolve you have shown
Tobias Oker, Kampala, Uganda
Aids is a dreadful condition that attacks one not only physically but emotionally which makes is totally devastating. Mally very few people can decide to cope and show the resolve you have shown. All I can say is that I have great admiration for the way you keep you head high up and stay upbeat. I can see that you are living your life to the full just as you said. Thanks a lot for the big heart you have shown to you foster son.
Tobias Oker, Kampala, Uganda

Hi Mally, thanks for your inspiring story hope you live life to the full and stay healthy and set an example to others that being positive is not the end of the world.
Adolf Velile, Essex United Kingdom

What a joy to read about your very positive outlook on life! I like the fact that you enjoy the journey (moments in life) and not the destination. If this disease is to be defeated, this is the way to go. Honestly Mally, I wish you good health for many more years to come. All the best.
Vetja Haakuria, Swakopmund, Namibia

I have had the undeniable privilege of knowing the support of Mally for nearly two years now, yet I was not fully aware of the amazing story of this inspiring man. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for being such an inspiration. Thank you for your love for Fanikie and, thank you for your unanswerving support, even through some personally trying personal times.
Graham Douglas, Perth, Australia

Basing bias on such a thing as illness is just not realistic
Maritza, San Antonio

It is most dreadful when people cannot look past something like skin colour, religion, or disease and automatically mark a person as being unclean or unworthy. There are many diseases in the world that plague society every year and basing bias on such a thing as illness is just not realistic. People must live and shunning someone because they are ill will only deprive an individual of the quality of life that they deserve. Most people fear death. I do not want to make people hate life because of ignorance. Yes Aids is a terrible illness, but it is something that exists in the world. There is as of yet no cure or vaccine and, the least we, the world society, can do, is make the lives of individuals fated to die as normal as possible.
Maritza, San Antonio, USA

Dear Mally. I wish all the best for you and your foster son. I admire and respect your zest for life and I hope all of us can adopt a similar attitude towards life too. Keep moving forward what ever the odds! Warmest regards
Dennis Neo, Singapore

I once met an HIV positive guy who told me that when he tells people he is 'HIV positive', people tend to focus on the first word, rather than the second. Reading your story and how you have made a difference in others' lives, particularly your son's life, I remembered what that man said. Wishing you good health and lots of cheer in life.
Bhavana Padiyath, Fremont, California, USA

Mally has a heart as big as the state of Montana!
Jeanne Hatfield, Montana

I am honoured to know Mally and call him my friend. He is an amazing man! Despite his HIV status he has never given up, never said it was intolerable. Mally has a heart as big as the state of Montana! He makes regular trips to the very poor areas and brings food and little treats to those who have nothing. But mostly he brings love in the truest meaning of the word. He spends time with people who society considers "untouchable". He hugs people who have not felt a human touch since their status as + was known. Mally is special not because he has HIV, but rather because of who he is and his generous nature. I am very proud of him for telling "his" story.
Jeanne Hatfield, Chair, HIV/Aids Education and Prevention Council, Montana, US

Dear Mally, Reading your story made me want to contact you - it's an inspiring story that you tell. I am pleased you have decided to live and fight this disease as best you can. It's wonderful that you have Fanikie and a couple of pets to enjoy life with. I understand that you want to keep your illness a secret; it's scary that so much prejudice exists against something like AIDS - I hope that one day awareness will be able to help conquer it. Please don't give up, life is just a moment on this earth. Keep telling your story and loving your life. Warmest regards.
Katy Tustian, London, UK

I wish to say that it is true that Mally has a lot of life to live and can live much much longer. However, he still has to live positively though on drugs (I hope he is) and I believe life is what you make it.
Juliet, Kampala, Uganda

The best form of attack is the WILL to fight back
Shola Obikanye, Lagos

The best form of attack against the destructive potency of HIV/Aids is the WILL to fight back. Mally shall live long because he knows this fact and he does it! I wish others knew this too.
Shola Obikanye, Lagos, Nigeria.

Hello Mally. I read your letter with utter astonishment. The region you live in is not the most cosmopolitan part of the country. Your decision to live with Fanikie is a very courageous one. He is most fortunate to have a father with such great spirits as yourself. No it doesn't sound like you'll be leaving this planet anytime soon. You are quite an inspiration. I also think you should spread the word to the rest of the provinces as good ambassadors such as yourself are needed all over the country. Be happy and enjoy all the best to you and Fanikie
Thabizolo Msimang, Guayquil Ecuadore

Hi. I feel encouraged when I hear how other people are taking the disease. Others they take it as an instant death sentence while others accept their conditions. If only everyone was to have a positive attitude towards HIV and Aids then more lives were going to be saved.
Resai Chinx, Harare

Bravo, Mally. Life is too precious to give up
Muzo, Lusaka

Bravo, Mally. Life is too precious to give up. Continue with your positive attitude and you will surely overcome all adversities.
Muzo, Lusaka, Zambia

An incredibly moving story. You are an example to many and enjoy life to the fullest! All the best! J.
James B, Toronto, Canada

Hi Mally. Thank you for your note - thank you for your terrific sense of humour in an absolutely gorgeous little piece of writing that inspires thoroughly. Keep it going.
Kai, Japan

What a refreshingly frank and inspiring story. It's a great thing to have such a positive attitude on life, stressed 'city folk' can learn a few things here. Good luck developing the garden Mally!
Simon R Jones, Cambridge, UK

Mally, you're great. Your bringing light to a topic surrounded by darkness. Enjoy!
Ric

I, also, have a major health situation, but have always had a passion for life and living. Those of us with this strength are fortunate, and live our lives to the fullest. Long life to you, Mally!
Barbara, Sevierville, USA

Good luck to you. I hope you stay happy and healthy for many years to come.
Philippa, England

Mally showed that Aids is not the end of the world
O. Almalik, Netherlands

What a wonderful story. It proves that staying positive is very significant. Mally showed that Aids is not the end of the world, and people can still manage to live and enjoy their lives. Mally is not the only one with such an experience. Unfortunately, others are not as lucky as Mally. Millions in the third world can not afford the medications. I find that a real disgraceful attitude from the rich countries. All the best Mally. Hopefully the real saviour of human kind (science and technology) will find a cure for this virus soon.
O. Almalik, Netherlands





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