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Sunday Times-South Africa
'Most HIV campaigns too boring'
<p>Poppy Louw</p>
July 25, 2013

FOR Mongezi Sosibo and Annah Mathekga, being young means living life to the full and tackling challenges head-on - including living with HIV/Aids.

"We are human and this disease is part of who we are. It is not an animal immuno-deficiency virus but a human one.

"It can be activated in anyone at any time and many people seem to forget that," 22-year-old Sosibo said.

Sosibo tested positive in April 2011.

While his peers party to bring in the weekend tomorrow, Sosibo, Mathekga and 48 other young people from across South Africa will take part in a dialogue on the virus, hosted by Positive magazine.

Infected and affected youths from Gauteng, Limpopo, the Free State, the North West and the Northern Cape will contribute to the dialogue.

Positive magazine's Molatelo Ramothwala said: "We are picking up on a lot more youth who are infected but do not know how to disclose their statuses to families [because they're afraid]."

Statistics South Africa's 2013 mid-year population estimates found that 1.26million more people have become HIV-positive since 2002, when 4million had the disease.

Of citizens aged 15-49, 15.9% are HIV- positive .

After her baby died in 2009, Mathekga went for an HIV test.

"I had only ever had three boyfriends my entire life and only had unprotected sex with the third, who ultimately fathered my baby," she said.

Mathekga, 24, said many young women are reluctant to insist on condoms.

"Most are afraid their boyfriends will leave them, and the more they are warned against something, the more they go towards it."

Sosibo and Mathekga, who spoke about living positively at the International Aids Conference last month, hope their messages will be heard tomorrow.

Said Sosibo: "It is time young people started taking care of themselves, but many say they do not know how to because most awareness campaigns are boring.

"The only way young people will understand is by changing the messages and approaches that are used to tell them about the disease."