Tender Mavundla, 26, is an aspiring singer about to release her first album. She was diagnosed with HIV almost seven years ago and knows what it feels like to be constantly rejected by men after disclosing her status. But she's finally found someone who's accepted her and her virus, and this is how it happened.
"We've been together from September 2006 ... I told him on the first day - the first few hours after we met - I said to him, 'Hey mfowethu [my brother] it was nice to meet you.' He says to me, 'You're a very cool person, I don't think I've ever met a person like you.' So I say, 'You'll hardly meet people like me, I drive a Z3 [slang for HIV]. But he laughs at me - he thinks I'm joking and asks me what I mean.
So I go to my house and show him my pictures where I'm big ... nice and light. Now, I'm dark, skinny, and when I met him I had been through a patch of being sick for three months. So he was, like, 'What happened to you, what, what?' So I tell him, 'I'm driving a Z3 and I bet you're not going to call me again are you?' I took out my pills and said, 'This is what's keeping me alive, dude'.
He says, 'You mean you are ... ?' and keeps quiet. So I said, 'Yeah, you can say it - I'm HIV positive'. He keeps quiet for a few seconds and I saw that it really shocked him, so I started getting serious because I really thought he's not taking me seriously. Then I changed my face, I changed my tone, and I told him, 'Look, Bheki, I'm very sick; I'm HIV-positive, and I have been for this long [seven years], and I'm taking pills.'
We spent the whole night discussing every little sickness I've been though, every guy I've been through, and every little party, and booze and cigarettes I’ve been through. I mentioned everything, and he did the same, telling me about his life.
Again, I brought up the fact that he is never going to call me, and then he says, 'You'll be surprised, but we'll see'. This was the 29th of September . He called me again the following morning, we met, and now we were acting like we've known each other for a while. We were holding hands, kissing in the mall, and I'm thinking, 'What, is this guy crazy?' Then he buys me a gift because the third of October was going to be my birthday and he says, 'Believe it or not, you're going to be seeing a lot of me'. I cried, I cried.
Now we're engaged, we're thinking of getting married in October . He's negative ... he's very tall, he's very huge, he's built ... when he puts on a [pair of] jeans, it's not just a [pair of] jeans ... the way it looks on him - and then when he puts on his boots, he looks like a rapper! So I was attracted to that. And what comes out of his mouth is totally different, he's wearing those things [clothes] and he sounds like a priest!
And here I am: what you see is what you get, I'm loud and he likes that because he's never been with a loud person like me; and I'm very straightforward and honest - he liked that.
That's the first thing I really liked about him. When he started opening up I had never seen a guy that cries in front of a woman, so he's very emotional. I like that a lot. I want a guy that's going to be able to cry with me. And he does that. We cry a lot. We relate a lot.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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