NATION

Duo Tell Of How HIV Turned Into A Positive Impact To Promote Awareness

With modern HIV treatment, Mr Lutukivuya and Ms Seduadua are ‘undetectable’, meaning they cannot transmit the virus to anyone else   When Benjamin Christopher Lutukivuya was first told by his
03 Dec 2017 11:38
Duo Tell Of How HIV Turned Into A  Positive Impact To Promote Awareness
People marching through Levuka Town to Nasau Park, Levuka, Ovalau, to celebrate the National World Aids Day. Photo: Manhar Lal

With modern HIV treatment, Mr Lutukivuya and Ms Seduadua are ‘undetectable’, meaning they cannot transmit the virus to anyone else

 

When Benjamin Christopher Lutukivuya was first told by his doctor in 2014 that he was HIV positive (human immunodeficiency virus), it did not entirely sink in.

He was 25-years-old.

“It was one week to two weeks after my diagnosis that I thought ‘I am no longer the same’ – there was something wrong with me,” he said.

“It was just my internal-self telling me that I cannot live a normal life – I cannot continue with this life –that I may have a period of two to five years of living.”

Mr Lutukivuya, who is said to be the first gay man in Fiji to come out publicly as a HIV positive, claims the virus was passed onto him through his affair with a married man.

Mr Lutukivuya said he did not tell anyone about his diagnosis until he mentioned it to a cousin at a grog session.

“I was about to mix the grog when I told my cousin about myself and she said ‘Will I get HIV doing this?’”

“I replied with ‘no’ and she was like ‘well, what are you waiting for? Continue!”

It was not until three months later that he informed his mother. She became curious about the amount of medication he brought home but never asked questions.

“I felt guilty. When I told her that the medication was because I was dealing with HIV she said ‘okay, that doesn’t really make you any less of a son to me’.”

His mother’s response was encouraging and so began his bold move.

“I came out because I felt there were more like me who were out there – who don’t have anyone to turn to.

“I felt like I could be a person they could turn to for one-on-one sessions, for help, for personal counselling and also be the voice for those who are voiceless in this field.”

Mr Lutukivuya said and stigmatisation was still the biggest challenge of living with HIV.

“I am so grateful for the support from my family, and my extended family, but discrimination still comes in various forms,” he said.

“It does not bring me down or give me low self-esteem until I come home – until I sit and think about it.”

Another major challenge for Mr Lutukivuya is managing the commitment to his medication.

“A big challenge for me is trying to remember to take my medication, one in the morning, one in the evening, every single day,” he said.

“If I don’t take it – it’s either you drop out to Stage 2, and from Stage 2 you go to Stage 3. For Stage 3 there is no treatment in Fiji.”

Mr Lutukivuya believes the known cases of HIV in Fiji, which he said sits at 768 people is just “the tip of the iceberg” as the unknown cases go beyond that figure.

“One message that I would like to echo out – you are not alone in this fight – there’s always someone there fighting for them,” he said.

“HIV before meant extreme illness and death – the unknown was terrifying. But now thanks to medication and research, I live a very heathy and happy life.”

Another inspirational person living with HIV, Margaret Seduadua was proudly celebrating with the crowd at Levuka on Friday.

She was tested positive during her pregnancy in 2003 and at that time considered suicide. However, when she joined the Fiji Network for People Living with HIV she overcame that dark moment.

The now 41-year-old did not come out publicly until 2009.

“It was a big relief for me, and I wanted to empower my peers who were still facing stigma and discrimination,” she said.

“If they have no support, we are here to support them.”

The mother of three children, all of whom are HIV-negative believes stigmatisation of those living with HIV remains the biggest issue.

With modern HIV treatment, Mr Lutukivuya and Ms Seduadua are ‘undetectable’, meaning they cannot transmit the virus to anyone else.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback:  kogo.fujiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

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