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Zambia's most outspoken HIV activist talks about her battle with HIV

Achieving Woman - By Kennedy Gondwe | December 11th 2016 at 05:41:19 GMT +0300
Photo: Courtesy

Princess Kasune, 40, is one of Zambia's most outspoken HIV activists and was elected as an opposition MP in August.

I tested positive to HIV in 1997 and the next year I went public about my status, defying my husband - and traditional taboos - in doing so.

I felt like a ray of light had hit me after testing positive and I shouted 'Praise God!' Such a reaction was not humanly possible even for me to understand but I looked at it as an avenue to change the lives of others.

When I realised that I was HIV-positive, I realised that I had a responsibility to spread the news from how it can be contracted, to how it can be prevented and also breaking the stigma and the silence.

For most of my life, I have been affected by the virus. Growing up in a rural village, I lost both my parents to Aids when I was 14 years old.

I became the head of the household, providing for my siblings, and was then married off at 18.

Driven by a passion to see a generation free of HIV, my decision to go public about my status divided opinion - not least with my late husband whom I suspect infected me as his first two wives had died.

My church excommunicated me for being defiant, and going against my spouse's wishes to keep my HIV status a secret.

My family was also against my status being known.

I have not taken any moment in my life lightly but I have realised that to each one of us, there is a challenge and in this generation, HIV is one of those challenges. One day a question will be asked about what we did about HIV and I hope I will be able to answer my grandchildren and many generations to come. I long to see an HIV-free generation and hopefully a day without stigma.

I have travelled worldwide as part of my mission, meeting leaders like former US Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush, as well as outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Yet it is in Zambia that I want to make the biggest impact. I wrote a book called 'Warrior Princess' that chronicles my life.

When I was elected as an opposition MP I become the first publicly known HIV-positive legislator. In my maiden speech, I reminded my fellow lawmakers about the importance of testing for the virus.

It's important for parliamentarians in particular to go for HIV tests in public or share their HIV status because leaders set the pace in everything that we do in a country. I think leaders have a big role and many more people will follow when they do that.

My old church has now apologized for excommunicating me and I want to join forces with others to confront HIV so that all leaders pull in the same direction. I am now re-married and I have three children who are all negative. My children are likely to do what I do rather than what I say. So I think we need to summon the courage and test publicly or share our results with the public.

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