Cape Town born Dorian Basson, was 20 years old when he contracted HIV through being raped. Dorian admits that getting HIV was never even a thought or possibility that crossed his mind.
Have you always known about HIV?
I first came to know about HIV during my first year at university, as it was part of our orientation program in 2004 when I started my BCom (General) studies at UWC. Prior to that I had always heard the term but never bothered to find out more as I was not sexually active and did not in the slightest way, think I needed to know more as it didn’t affect me.
Did you ever think you could get HIV?
No, me getting HIV was never even a thought or possibility that crossed my mind. I remember how detailed the peer educators were when they explained the concept of HIV/AIDS to us in the orientation program. The ways of becoming infected were all not ways I could get infected because in my ignorant mind at the time, I was more focused on excelling academically and knew I would never put myself at risk in any of the possible ways described.
How old were you when you contracted the disease?
I was 20 years old when I contracted the disease. I was walking home in October 2005, when I was attacked from behind by an unknown guy. The guy dragged me into nearby bushes and raped me while holding a knife to my throat.
How did you find out about your status?
I suffered a mental breakdown the night of the sexual assault. I was so ashamed, that I blamed my homosexuality as the reason for the breakdown. The reality was that I was comfortable with my sexuality but there was no way that I was going to divulge details of the sexual assault. It was my first sexual experience and I was ashamed that it could have taken place in such a manner. It was while sitting at work on 05 December 2008, following the hype of World Aids Day (WAD), that I had a sudden urge to go get tested. It would be in solidarity of WAD. I declined pre-counselling as I knew my status. I had not in any way been “exposed” to HIV.
What was the first thing that went through your mind when you found out?
For those first few minutes, there was a numbness that I cannot explain. I still cannot recall what the nurse was telling me, I just know she kept apologising for not insisting on pre-counselling. But my mind was far off. I wanted to kill that guy who sexually assaulted me 2 years prior. It was all I could think of. I eventually burst out in tears and continued crying for what could have been a few hours. I excused myself from work for the rest of the day.
How has your attitude about HIV changed since then?
It has taken a 180 degree change in that I now know that HIV is only part of who I am. In the last 10 years especially I have experienced something which I pray every person should experience: Love Beyond HIV/AIDS. It has even become my official hashtag. When you have support from others, in the manner I have received support, you just know that anything is possible. It is not always HIV which is our biggest obstacle in life but all the social and economic issues which surround HIV.
What is it that you know now that you wish you knew then about HIV?
I wish I knew about PrEP and PEP. I would have had the tools to protect myself. However, with that being said, I wouldn’t change a thing. Being HIV positive has enabled me to see life differently and to meet the most dynamic and inspirational people. I often say I stand on the shoulders of giants.
What advice would you give someone who recently found out they’re HIV positive?
Please take it one day at a time. Do not let yourself be rushed to do anything you do not feel like doing. Allow yourself to feel the emotions but also know that the field of HIV/AIDS has come a long way since 1980’s and it keeps evolving. Know that you are indeed Love Beyond HIV/AIDS and that HIV is only a small part of who you are. Continue living life to the fullest until you have reached the best possible version of who you are.