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First-hand: from HIV diagnosis to HIV advocacy

Kelebogile Moesi as told to Tinashe Madamombe

25 January 2024

Kelebogile Moesi, a 27-year-old HIV activist living positively with HIV, and youth lead advocate from Botswana talks about working on the frontline of the HIV response

Kelebogile Moesi
Kelebogile Moesi

I'm out here making a difference!

I found out I had HIV at the young age of eight in 2004. My parents were no longer alive, and I was brought up by my grandmother and aunt. I’d say life gave me lemons, but I decided to make lemonade. I decided to share my story with the world in August 2020. Since then, I've been on TV and radio, spreading the word about living positively with HIV.

I'm out here making a difference! I've been invited to different places by ministries and cool platforms to share my journey and educate young people about HIV. As a youth advocate, my mission is to amplify the voices of young people, support those living with HIV, connect them with the right services, and make sure they stay on track with their treatment.

Working with young people living with HIV is extremely fulfilling. I get to create a safe space for them to share their feelings and emotions. Additionally, I'm a mentor, helping them grow and stay motivated. Making a positive impact in people's lives has become my biggest goal. The message that I share with young people that I work with is that being HIV positive doesn't mean you can't live the life you've always wanted. Don't let HIV define or limit you!

Some say the sky's the limit, but guess what? I believe the sky is just the starting point for all the awesome things you can achieve and conquer.

I can tackle anything an HIV-negative person can

I started a Facebook page called 'Living the life beyond HIV' with a mission close to my heart – helping young people like me who are living with HIV. On the page, I share positive messages and dive into important topics like PrEP, PEP, and U=U to spread knowledge. The engagement from fellow young people tells me that the information I'm sharing is making a real impact.

I don't just stop at posting; I make follow-ups with those who interact with my content. Many have reached out, expressing gratitude and sharing that because of my posts, they took the step to get tested or resume their treatment. My core message is loud and clear: living with HIV is not a death sentence. I'm living proof that I can tackle anything an HIV-negative person can.

Being a young mom comes with its own set of challenges, especially when it comes to finding the time to stay connected. Juggling the different roles of parenting and social media advocacy can make it tough to be as active as I'd like. I find myself struggling to moderate my page consistently. I am guilty of responding late to messages and missing out on real-time comments and conversations. Life gets hectic but I'm doing my best to keep going.

The positives outweigh the negatives

Being a youth advocate definitely has its challenges, but the positives totally outweigh the negatives. I've always dreamed of getting certified in HIV counseling, and that dream became a reality thanks to a college sponsorship that recognized my community work.

To top it off, in 2022/3, I was named on the list of the top 100 most influential women due to the advocacy work that I do. Another dream of mine was to speak on a global stage, and as a youth advocate, I got the chance to represent my country at an international dialogue hosted by Athena Network.

Above all, there's nothing like the fulfillment of knowing you're making a difference in someone else's life, and not just any difference, a positive impact. I've rallied young people to get tested for HIV, especially those who were feeling scared. Additionally, I've been able to support those at risk of dropping out of treatment and helped others struggling to accept their status.

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