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Parents must talk to protect children from HIV/AIDS

- Wits University

Divorce can lead children to make life impacting decisions, parents told during the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial at Wits.

Zandile Mqwathi was 16 years when her parents divorced. “At 16 I had to know the price of sanitary pads and I had to see how I got these and other necessities.”

This led her to make a series of bad choices.

A part of her journey includes falling pregnant and discovering that she was HIV positive at the age of 22. 

“When I found out I was frightened and questioned what people would think of me. One day after crying very hard I decided that I needed to live for my unborn child and that I would tell my story of living with the virus as a way of healing,” says Mqwathi.

The Pretoria born young woman spoke at Wits University on Friday, 19 May 2017, ahead of International AIDS Candlelight Memorial day. The day of action and remembrance is observed annually every third Sunday in May. 

Zandile Mqwathi urges parents to talk to and support their children. Witsies pledge and write messages of support.
Witsies support the HIVAIDS Candle Memorial. The Wits Staff Choir performs at the event.

Mqwathi emphasised the need for parents to be supportive and talk to their children in order to prevent cases similar to hers.

“I want to ask parents to protect their children from HIV/Aids. Don’t neglect your children just because you are divorced or separated from their mother”.

She currently works as a Programme Coordinator for HEAids (Higher Education and Training: HIV /AIDS Programme) which is a national facility aimed at developing and supporting the HIV mitigation programmes at public institutions of higher learning in South Africa.

Her work sees her travelling across the country to assist in the national planning, implementation, coordination and sector support of sustainable HIV/AIDS, health and wellness projects in the sector, focusing on public universities.  

She urged universities to continue to create safe spaces and make it easy for people with HIV/AIDS to work and live without fear.

“Days like these are important. When we light candles we shine the light on HIV/AIDS and shine light on the darkness around ignorance and stigma. We create awareness about what it doesn’t mean to live with HIV/AIDS,” she told Witsies.

An artivist, which she defined as one who believes in the power of art for activism, Mqwathi holds an honors degree in Drama Therapy from Wits and is currently completing her Masters in the same field.

The Wits Candlelight Memorial Day was organised by Vinoba Krishna, HIV Programme Co-ordinator at the Wits Counselling and Careers Development Unit.