Communities Make The Difference.
When I lost my parents in 2000, I never thought that life will ever be the same again, when my aunt who took me in and later passed away I was sure that I will never fit in any way. Or at least that is where i was wrong for I had a village around me to help me navigate my way around it all.” These were the words of Masedi Thata Kewamodimo when asked what does this Year’s theme of “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community make the difference” mean to her.
Masedi Thata Kewamodimo is a young lady all the way from Botswana who was born in the year 1994,she is mostly known as “Queen of Advocacy”. She lost her parents due to AIDS in the year 2000, she then stayed with an aunt who also later passed due to the epidemic. After the passing of her aunt in 2004, the other aunt who then took her in had her tested for HIV. The test showed that the then little 10 years old was in fact HIV+, with evidence pointing to having been born with the virus.
“I was confused not sure what life I will have, all I knew was that being HIV meant death, I thought I was going to die” Masedi alluded. The then ten year old was put on treatment rightway, few years in she started really suffering mentally due to the fact that she had never received counselling to accept the death of her parents or her status. Her little mind told her that if she could get away from where she was staying it would be better. that is when she asked her brother if she could stay with him. Only for her to sadly discover that moving does nothing to her situation.
After she completed her grade seven she moved yet again to now stay with her sister, when answering why all the moves Masedi says well that is where community came in. She then met a friend who told her about a group of young people who come together to talk about issues that affect people living with HIV. This is the place that got the little girl to want to be an agent of change.
“The sad truth is I went public about living with HIV only because I wanted people to stop seeing the HIV when I tell them my status. I was doing my second year in university, all I wanted was to be normal, but there is no normal for people like me so I wanted to get the world to adapt to the fact that I am here.” Masedi stated. Masedi explains that this is when she had to grow up, she wanted to build her mother’s legency which is why on Mother’s Day 2017 she took to the radio waves that I am HIV and HIV is not me.
Her work took her to communities, where she saw that indeed she was not alone. She says that stigma still is there especially because of messages of the past which mainly talked about how AIDS kills but that is not the world today.
Masedi’s vision for the world is that we don’t just celebrate AIDS day, because those who are living are not living with AIDS rather just the HIV virus. This is one of the reasons that she believes that ARVs should be available to everyone all over the world like it is in some countries such as her own (Botswana). She says “people are no longer sick, they are teachers, police men and women, politicians, mothers, fathers, engineers and many more, they are the men and women behind economies. They are the future of the world we live in, why not invest in our today, tomorrow and future by investing in their health, not just the physical but emotional, mental and spiritual?”
Masedi says so many times people look at her and only get to remember her as the girl with HIV that so many times she forgets who Masedi is, she talks about how in this years we should look at the theme and ask ourselves as communities what can we do. How can you be a better co-worker, aunt, uncle or sibling to those who need your help. Her message to Nigeria is that she sees Nigeria as the heart of the continent which is why she wishes to see it as the solution provider to the socio-culture, economical, emotional impacts of HIV and other chronic illnesses.
Masedi concluded by saying “I also want people to remember HIV is not the person for example Masedi is:
- A holder of Bachelors of Business Honors Degree in Tourism Management
- Qualified and became a A Mandela Washington Fellow at the age of 21.
- Recognized by Mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America for the community outreaches she engaged in.
- Spoke in 3 international Television, in 3 continents at the age of 22.
- Spoke in 3 international radio, in 3 continents at the age of 22.
- An HIV Strategic and Technical Advisor to US Agencies, UN Family, National AIDS & Health Promotion Agency
- Participants of an African German Initiative through African Union
- Shared her views on the HIV response in 5 countries and counting (Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, United Kingdom and the United States of America)
- Got a training on public communication, relations and key issues when addressing policy makers and stakeholders by Viv Healthcare throughout a program called Spark 17.
- Co-star in Have it All Documentary that follows the lives of 5 people who are living with HIV in Botswana.
- Got an applause from a former US Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on the US House Floor in 2018
- Co-host and the brains behind Next Chapter Radio show that uplifts people living with HIV.
- A YouTuber (Sedi’s World) where she talks about all issues that affect people living with HIV.
- Consultant for Fhi360 under the APC (Advancing Partners and Communities) project and FCI (Faith and Community Initiative)
- A sister, aunt, friend, granddaughter, and many more.”
Masedi Thata Kewamodimo has over 4 years’ experience as an HIV/AIDS Advocate and Technical advisor known as “The Queen of Advocacy”. She holds a Bachelor’s of Business Honors Degree in Tourism Management. She is a former employee at Sentebale where she worked as Communications and Advocacy Officer from Aug 2017 – October 2018 working to increase awareness to the Sentebale program in Botswana as well as empower young Advocate. Even beyond her employment at Sentebale, she prides herself as a Let Youth Lead Advocate and works together with many young people to bring light to HIV issues in Botswana and Africa. She is a Have it All Documentary co-star, (it is a documentary produced by the U.S Embassy in Botswana in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to bring attention to Botswana’s Treat All program). She is a co-star of the #WhyNotToday initiative that aims as putting people on treatment immediately and she is also a treat all champion, PEPFAR Hero.