My journey: Challenging stigma and discrimination in the workplace
Florence Sithole: Stigma could not take her down
Stigma and discrimination is borne of fear and ignorance which might be overcome by openness and access to information. HIV is still regarded as taboo in some of the African societies. That is why HIV positive people have challenges in getting proper jobs they are trained for and sometimes never fulfil their dreams.
My name is Florence Sithole, a SAfAIDS employee and l am proud to be part of the SAfAIDS family. I was employed because of my competence not because of my HIV status. Prior to joining SAfAIDS, I was pursuing a different career in a different industry not related to the developmental sector. In this industry that I was so passionate about, I underwent the recruitment process for my dream job and was elated to be informed that l had passed the interview. The next morning, hoping that l was going to start my new job, they requested a medical test. My medicals showed that I was HIV+, resulting in my offer letter being withdrawn. This was despite my qualifications and experience, which had led me to excel during the interviews. I felt disempowered, helpless and my morale was completely shattered.
Fortunately, being employed at SAfAIDS has normalised HIV through Workplace Wellness programmes and Awareness Sessions for staff and their families. I look back and acknowledge the difference in industries to the Development sector where one’s HIV status is not a barrier to employment. Instead of discriminating HIV positive people, they are impressed and accommodated within the SAfAIDS programmes and at the workplace. I regained my self-esteem and became a renewed person.
The SAfAIDS Positive Talk programme that is aired on ZTV provides a platform for educating the audience of letting everyone know they are not alone and removed uncertainties regarding stigma and discrimination and instilled confidence in individuals. Reaching out to everyone country wide through SAfAIDS Positive Talk programme gave me hope that stigma and discrimination can be a thing of the past.
I am an individual that bears testimony to the fact that HIV is a manageable condition. Like anyone else with a health condition, I chose to take charge and manage it in the best way possible. Being HIV positive does not impair one’s potential but our ability can be exploited to contribute to the socio-developmental growth of families, our churches, our communities and our nation. l believe stigma is a scourge that needs to be eradicated in our African society.
Thanks to SAfAIDS which challenged stigma and discrimination of positive living minority groups. It takes the whole village to raise a child, same as stigma, the whole nation should jointly work together on challenging stigma and discrimination. If that disease of stigma is eradicated our African society will become a better place.
It takes a simple choice for one to live a full life. , A CHOICE to accept, a choice to live, a choice to respect, a choice to speak out, a choice to support others at no cost, simply because WE CAN.