Ink Centre for Investigative Journalism recently held an HIV/AIDS workshop in partnership with the American embassy where the media was trained on best ways of reporting on HIV/AIDS. The workshop was attended by people living with HIV/AIDS and various activists. Personal testimonies were delivered by individuals who shared how they contracted the disease and how they are currently living with it. HIV/AIDS activist Reginah Lesole, who is living with the virus, got a rough treatment from the media after going public, something that resulted with her withdrawing from public space and engagements. She said that instead of focusing on the events that transpired for her to be in that situation, there was a title in a newspaper that read something like ‘AIDS Queen loses everything in a scam marriage’. “This broke me down. I was crushed and for the first time I became embarrassed and I did not even want to do any advocacy on that because I could not understand how I could be called an AIDS queen. I lost a lot of opportunities because of that title and you can imagine how that made me feel,” she said.
Lesole encouraged the media to understand that the power that they hold can mold and break individuals. “My focus has always been on helping other people, even though I have been in hiding now I have recovered and I am ready to move on,” she said. Currently one of the trending HIV/AIDS activists is Onalethata Mpebe who uses social media extensively in order to make people aware of HIV/AIDS by helping those with the virus to accept themselves. She said she has not been abused in any way by the media. “The media has helped me on so many instances because they even write beautiful stories that I would be surprised on whether it was me who said it like that or not,” she said. Another activist Bonolo Segadimo said because of stress with her then boyfriend she entertained another one who was HIV positive who forced himself in her without using protection and made her pregnant. She was just 22 then, and having lost her sisters to the disease she knew that she had to do something in order to save others and give hope to the hopeless. “I lost my sisters and I didn’t want someone to experience that as well. I have daughters and I also want them to grow into responsible women who can take care of themselves,” she said.