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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 12:12 GMT
'I worry for my daughter'
As part of a BBC series on Aids, people living with HIV from around the world tell their own stories in their own words.


Oziel
Oziel supports an extended family
Oziel, who is 34 and from South Africa, has learned to take a positive attitude towards HIV, but his greatest fear remains what would happen to his daughter if he were to die.

My name is Oziel and I live in Durban, South Africa.

I discovered I had HIV after my daughter died in 1997. She was three-months-old and had contracted pneumonia.

It was at that point that doctors found she had the virus. They told me and my then partner that the only way she could have got it was from us.

It was an absolute shock, as neither of us had felt ill. No headaches, no sickness, nothing. And we both went into denial - decided it couldn't be true.

But it was no good, I was worried. And I started to feel ill, really ill. Funnily enough I don't think it was the virus itself that was making me sick but the worry - the stress of thinking that I might have it.

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That's when I decided to go for the test. I decided I had to know.

It was the first six months that were the worst, as I couldn't come to terms with it. But I went to regular counselling, started learning about the virus and what it was doing in my body.

Knowing about it in this way helped normalise the situation and helped me to start living without fear.

I also had close family to talk to - my partner was HIV-positive and my brother too. Then I also got involved with the South Africa YMCA's projects to help people live with HIV, and started helping with campaigns. That made all the difference, as it gave me a new identity.

Openness is double-edged

I realised that being open about the virus helped me, and I've been trying to encourage others to do the same.

Some very distressing things have happened on the way though - I knew a woman who was involved in the campaign for promoting openness who was killed by a group of boys in her community.

I don't want my daughter to be on the streets with nothing in a few years time because I have died
Openness is double-edged. On the one hand it does help me. On the other, living and working in a community where many people know I have HIV leaves me open to prejudice and isolation.

But at the same time, many people seem to expect you to tell them. I started a relationship with a lady, just a friendship, and I didn't tell her.

She became very funny, and then phoned me up and said: "Look, I've found out you are HIV-positive, but you didn't tell me." And that was that.

So all that can be difficult. But I guess the thing I find hardest is thinking about the future of my daughter, who is 12. She is HIV-negative.

Money buys health

My whole family depends on me. I am the only one who had a higher education so I support everyone in my family, including my nieces and their father. My sister, their mother, died of Aids.

I would not be able to care for them if I died, and they would certainly not be able to care for my daughter.

I want her to be educated, I want her to have opportunities. I don't want her to be on the streets with nothing in a few years time because I have died.

At the moment I feel fine, although access to drugs here is very much dependent on how much money you have. I can't afford to see a specialist doctor, and I can't afford the more advanced treatments.

I can't even afford to have to have the test which shows me what stage the virus is at in my body, and enables doctors to prescribe the right treatment.

I go for the basic medication, and take vitamins.

But I continue to live with hope. I am HIV-positive, I don't have Aids. I'm not going to die tomorrow.

BBC News Online was put into contact with Oziel through the British organisation Y Care International, which supports the work of South Africa's YMCA.


The following comments reflect the balance of views we received:

Through your determination and effort, you are making a difference
Becky Reed, Japan

Oziel, I am very inspired by your story. The work that you are doing will help save lives. Through your determination and effort, you are making a difference! Thank you for fighting this battle. Stay strong for your daughter and family, and don't ever lose hope. Sincerely,
Becky Reed, Japan

I think you must be patient and try to do the best for you and family and never surrender because you still have power and you're still a young man.
Setyawan, Ngawi, Indonesian

Oziel, your words were very inspiring - I'm a student writing about HIV and South Africa, and I admire your courage to speak up. You are so strong at will and God has blessed you with a beautiful daughter. Don't ever lose hope.
Petrina Chan, Hong Kong

Thank you for being so positive, especially for your daughter's sake. I have lost two family members to Aids. If I look back, I wish I would have been able to talk more openly about the disease, than I did with my family members who got sick. Thank you for inspiring other HIV positive people to open up and have the burden of secrecy lifted from their shoulders.
Cynthia, San Diego, USA

Sadly your story is the story of many of our brothers and sisters. I was glad to hear that your government is implementing a system to tackle the problem on a large scale and I hope you will be around to take care of your daughter.
Wairmu Kuria, Kenyan in USA

Sawubona mfowethu. I am a South African studying in USA. I went to school in Durban and Natal University. Reading your inspiring story makes me feel like I am home in Durban. Keep up the good work, and I am sure, no matter what happens, your daughter will be cared for and have opportunities.
Neo Lekgolta Laga Ramoupi, Washington DC, USA

Good for you and keep up that positive attitude
Mally, Nelspruit

Oziel, my friend and countryman. Good for you and keep up that positive attitude. Let's keep pressure on the government and ensure that the medication is available to all in our beautiful country who want and need it. Take special care of your daughter, and thank God each day that she has tested negative. You and your hard work in the HIV field will be richly rewarded in heaven one day (hopefully - not soon). God's richest blessings and the very best of health to you.
Mally, Nelspruit, South Africa

I wish you and your family well and hope you can all keep a positive attitude in these trying times.
Dale A. Mason, St. Philip, Barbados

Oziel, keep fighting! Your daughter is a very lucky girl to have a father so strong and determined. I'm sure she is learning so much and will take every opportunity that comes here way to be able to support not only herself, but her family and her father when the time comes. All you need is love and I'm sure the two of you have more than enough of that for each other. God Bless you Oziel.
Laura, UK

Oziel, in life everything happens for a purpose. I think, the purpose of you being the way you are today, is to save more lives.
Blessing Azomokwu, Mysen, Norway

Thank you brother for coming forward! I wish you all the best and hope that a solution will be found soon. Although I don't have the virus, I know how difficult it is to live with it, but I know that it is much easier once you accept it and I know that there is hope with everything.
Merlyn, Namibia




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