|HIV and AIDS is not our identity|
When Pastor Mbulelo Dyasi came face to face with HIV he didn't run away or do anything stupid. Surrounded by support, he says that he faced HIV head-on, never suffering much and never identifying himself with his status. “I am Mbulelo Dyasi – I am not AIDS or HIV”, he likes to tell people. Now the popular former Eastern Cape AIDS Ambassador urges other HIV-positive people, especially men and youth, to come forward and stand up to the virus to stop it spreading.
Born and raised in Ilitha Township near the tiny town of Berlin in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, Dyasi showed an interest in gender issues from an early age. With dreams of a career in international peace politics, he naturally gravitated to discussions and workshops on human rights and equality.
When Dyasi married in 2003 he was working for the Umtapo Centre and involved in a Peace and Anti-racism campaign through the Peace Africa Youth Centre. He contracted HIV disease in the same year but fortunately received unqualified support from various people in the Steve Biko Foundation, the National Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS, and the Treatment Action Campaign.
Dyasi was nominated for the International Visitors’ Programme in the United States through the Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre. He attended meetings throughout the US, visiting Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Seattle and Atlanta, and met with government policy makers, NGOs and individuals living openly with HIV, both in hospitals and support groups. He was able to see, firsthand, how the different federal governments, hospitals and NGOs implemented various programmes providing support and care for people living with HIV and AIDS.
While Pastor Dyasi found the US to be more advanced in terms of HIV treatment and counselling, he felt his own home province was ahead when it came to social mobilisation as well as multi-sectoral responses and approaches.
Pastor Dyasi currently works for the Promotion of Rural and Urban Livelihoods (RULIV) organisation, coordinating their policy targets division. Here he organises workshops, at both national and local level, on social and resource mobilisation; human rights; gender equality; and HIV and AIDS.
He also works in other sectors, particularly men-focussed, on a voluntary basis. Pastor Dyasi, who is also member of the South African National AIDS Council’s (SANAC) men’s sector national committee, now uses his experiences to make a difference in the country, through newspaper columns, HIV and AIDS radio talk shows and motivational talks. He leads by example and pledges publicly “not to infect others”, hoping that others will indeed follow his inspirational lead.
Pastor Dyasi is a firm supporter of the Metropolitan Foundation’s Live the Future Programme. This Programme seeks to create awareness, transfer knowledge, empower, and inspire personal and group action to effectively address the AIDS epidemic and create a “Summer for All” scenario. For more information visit www.livethefuture.co.za.