Empowering Women with HIV Prevention
My community is small, but HIV/AIDS is a big issue here. I joined The Ring Study to know more and the research sounded interesting. The dapivirine ring was easy to use and nobody can see that it’s inserted except your partner, if you want to tell him.
The trial was a friendly zone. With other participants, even though we were different ages, we could talk to each other about the ring, marriages, partners, baby daddies or other issues. But we did not judge each other.
When we heard that the ring got a positive opinion, I was over the moon! If it is approved in South Africa, I hope my community is the first to get it.
Right now, you could get raped or you don’t know a partner’s status. There should be workshops so people can hear about HIV prevention and the ring; let them hear from someone who’s actually used it. This gives me hope for the future.
Read Akhona's experience with the dapivirine ring
Engaging Women Leaders
Getting the dapivirine ring to this stage has been a personally life-changing experience.
This woman-centered innovation would have been impossible without passionate and dedicated women—advocates, activists, healthcare workers, clinicians, nurses, and the thousands of women who participated in the various studies—whose contributions were as critical as those made by the scientists that developed the ring in the lab.
Before I became involved in an abusive relationship, became infected with HIV and had a baby, I had dreams.
We dated for six years—six long years of hell. My friends warned me about his bad boy behaviour, but I was deeply in love with him. He cheated a lot and, when I confronted him, he would get emotionally abusive, physically violent and beat me to a pulp.
Eventually, I gathered the courage to leave him and moved on with my life.
I realised very early on that I was facing a triple challenge: being a woman, being a black woman and being a black woman with HIV.
But being HIV-positive should not be a barrier to love, sex or dating. We all deserve to love and be loved.
Being a woman is like being on an adventure—you get to experience and explore life as it rocks you into different directions. However, all these directions are driven by one word: CHOICE.
As a woman living with HIV and as a sex worker, being a mother was the last thing I had on my bucket list, or even my mind.