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Personal story: Ruth

I’m proud to say I have been living positively for 27 years

Warning: this story mentions rape and sexual assault.

Smiling, hoop earring, woman looking at camera
Photo credit: ©iStock/Igor Alecsander. Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply health status or behaviour.

"My name is Ruth, and I was born and brought up South Africa. I am here to share my story and hope that it will touch and inspire each and every woman. I studied Governance and it is my passion working with people and developing and managing communities. Growing up in the dusty streets of Soweto in South Africa I had dreams just like any other children. I was only 15 years when I was raped by three men. They were arrested later, however with the unfair justice system in South Africa they were released. My life was never the same again, I feared for my life more than anything, but I had to let go and move on.

Six years later I was diagnosed with HIV. It was hard at the beginning having to face my family with something like this since I never wanted to share my rape incident with them, only my parents knew about it. It was hard at first to accept. I was angry, all I wanted was to die and I felt like I had no reason to live, but with my parents on my side I was able to heal and started looking after myself.

I then joined an HIV organisation, sharing my story and teaching young people about the virus. I was a full on activist and I also had an opportunity to become a member in one of the biggest organisations in South Africa called Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) fighting for free treatment. I went out to schools, disadvantaged communities, prisons, hospitals, clinics and youth organisations sharing my story and sharing some knowledge about the disease. As they always say, knowledge is power.

Today I’m 41 years of age and a mother of two healthy and HIV-negative girls aged 21 and 13 years. I’m proud to say I have been living positively for 27 years, I started my treatment in 2015 and my last CD4 in July 2019 are so impressive: CD4 of 870 and my viral load is so low that the virus is undetectable.

My dream is to continue and give hope to those still suffering, to go all around the world and give hope. I hope my story will inspire everyone reading it. My last word is if I could do it, you can do it too."

What we say

Ruth struggled when she first found out she has HIV but has since found strength through sharing her story and teaching others about HIV. As Ruth says, knowledge is power, and learning more about HIV has also allowed her to take care of herself while living with HIV. Find out more about how you can look after yourself and stay healthy.

Do you have your own story to tell? Click the link to share it with us!

These personal stories have been submitted to us anonymously by individuals who use our site. Some of the stories have been edited for clarity purposes and names have been changed to protect identities.

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  • Last updated: 14 November 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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