Lisungu Chieza from Zimbabwe was 26 when she was told in 1996 that she was HIV positive.
"This started my long journey of coping with being HIV+. My husband died in my arms at home eight months later." Not only did Lisungu have to cope with her own illness and losing her husband, but her husband's family also wrongly blamed her for his death. They came to her house, took away his things, and said, "If those children of yours get sick, don't even call us. We won't have anything to do with them or you."
They would not even let her go to her husband's burial. "I gave up a college course I had planned to do. All I thought about was death. I neglected my children and myself." But her mother supported her. Lisungu began to find hope again and joined an HIV support group. Then she started to help others who were also HIV+, and took a college course about HIV-AIDS. She spoke at HIV meetings with the young people in her church.
Wearing the t-shirt
Lisungu believes that it is very important is to be honest about HIV – she says, "I wore Tshirts about HIV+ to break the stigma." In Zimbabwe, many people do not want to tell others that they are HIV+, or to attend support groups. "I changed this – I told everyone in the company where I worked, that I had HIV." God became real to her. She used to go to Christian meetings only from habit.
"Now, when I say 'Thank you God,' I really mean it! HIV has helped me to find a friendship with God and also to be much closer to my mother and other people." She tells everyone, "It's not the end of the world. Take it as the beginning of another life. Blaming yourself or others won't change anything. I wasted two years of my life just waiting to die."