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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 August 2006, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Thembi's Aids diary
Thembi Ngubane
Crossing Continents
Thursday, 10 August, 1102 BST
Monday, 14 August, 2030 BST
On Radio 4 and online

"I feel like if a person is listening to my story, that person is with me every day.

"Every time she hears the dog bark, it's like she is waking up in my yard. I've taken that person to South Africa, into my shack, into my township, into my everyday routine."

Thembi Ngubane lives in one of South Africa's largest townships, a sprawling sea of houses and shacks made of wood planks, tar paper and sheets of tin.

She has a boyfriend and a close relationship with her mother and father. She is also living with Aids.

Thembi was 19 when she first met radio producer Joe Richman in Khayelitsha, outside Cape Town.

She was among a group of South African teenagers he interviewed about Aids in 2004.

Throughout the diary Ngubane expresses the desire she has to stop hiding her disease
He gave her a tape recorder, and for a year, she recorded an intimate audio diary that brings listeners into her home, among her family, to witness her daily struggles and triumphs.

Thembi introduces listeners to her boyfriend, Melikhaya - and recalls when she told him she was HIV-positive: "I thought, 'What if I've also infected him? Now I've ruined my life, and I've ruined everybody's lives.'"

She chronicles how difficult it is to tell her father about her illness: "I've felt like I have disappointed you... I thought that it was going to break you into pieces," she tells him.

But throughout the diary, Thembi expresses the desire she has to stop hiding her disease - and to help others stop hiding too.

Five city tour

About five million people are HIV-positive in South Africa, and young women aged 16-25 make up 75% of all new infections.

Thembi's audio diary collects the intimate moments and disparate episodes of her everyday life and crafts a larger story that tells the story of the disease and its impact.

I wanted to reach other young people who are also infected with HIV
Thembi Ngubane
This special edition of Crossing Continents features Thembi's Aids diary and also follows her on her first trip abroad earlier this year to the United States to talk about her story and experiences.

Thembi is determined that people living with Aids are not marginalised. "I wanted to reach other young people who are also infected with HIV, who are hiding, who are afraid to come out and disclose their status," she said.

On her five city tour she spoke to high school and college students, Congressional staff in Washington DC, Aids doctors in Boston, celebrities in Los Angeles, and HIV positive teens in Chicago.

At one presentation to high school students, a teenager pointed to Thembi and said: "She's too pretty to have Aids."

After the event, he came up to Thembi and told her, "I'm a different person than I was when I came in here."

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents: Thembi's Aids Diary is a co-production with the US-based independent radio production company Radio Diaries.

Producer: Joe Richman
Web Producer: Nathalie Knowles
Editor: Maria Balinska

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