Phindile Sithole-Spong was born with HIV but only found out at age 19 when she ‘was diagnosed with full-blown Aids’. She speaks about her organisation, Rebranding HIV, working to fight stigma and discrimination
People living with HIV still face enduring stigma and discrimination despite the availability of information, knowledge of HIV/AIDS and increased government programmes.
Phindile Sithole-Spong, a South African HIV-positive activist featured by the BBC is working to fight stigma and discrimination around HIV/Aids and sexual health.
Sithole-Spong says, “I was diagnosed with full-blown Aids at the age of 19”. She says her biological parents died of Aids-related illnesses and she has been living with HIV for 26 years.
While at university, a few years after finding out her status, Sithole-Spong says, “I started to realise that one of the biggest issues with HIV was that people still had a very backward mentality about HIV and Aids. People still thought that because you are HIV positive, its a death sentence”.
Sithole-Spong aims to create HIV/Aids awareness through her organisation, Rebranding HIV, which mainly works with young people to to fight stigma and dispel myths on HIV.
“The main strategy of Rebranding HIV is to put a face and voice behind HIV so its not some sort of abstract idea and it becomes more real,” she tells BBC.
The objective is to alter preconceptions and misconceptions about HIV/Aids.
Sithole-Spong says she lives a pretty normal life and found a new boyfriend, who is HIV negative, “and we started to learn together and grow together”.