ARVs saved my life

My name is Phumzile Neville Nywagi and I am 40 years of age. In 2001, I became sick and had swollen glands in my neck. I thought it was just a bad flu that would not go away. I went to a day hospital and was examined by a doctor. He asked me about if I knew about HIV and if I wanted to have an HIV test. I decided not to go for an HIV test.

Later, I told my neighbour, Mandla who was a TAC member, about my illness. He also advised me to agree to an HIV test, but I was sceptical and afraid of a positive test result and still did not want to go for an HIV test. After some time, my illness became worse and I was unable to walk. My sister helped me with eating and keeping clean.

At this stage, I agreed to an HIV test and because I had night sweats, coughing, had lost weight and my appetite for food, I also had a TB test. I tested positive for both TB and HIV and was later diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis. I was treated for TB for six months, am still taking fluconazole to prevent new "crypto", but at this stage I was anxious to start ARVs because I heard that they would keep me alive!

I started the ARV program on 12 November 2001 taking Efavirenz and AZT/3TC. I was able to walk again soon after starting ARVs and could once again cook, clean and enjoy home life. I started to lean more about ARVs through attending the ARV support groups.

Now I am sharing my experience of sickness, ARVs and health with my friends, family and community at large. I think it is important as a man living with HIV/AIDS to be doing this work. I have had no problems in taking the ARVs and am working with TAC in my community. I encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about ARVs and to educate those around them about ARVs.