‘I lived in a place of utter denial that nearly cost me my life’

Barbara Kingsley’s book, I am Human, describes her experience of living with HIV for more than two decades.

“’I am’ are two of the most powerful words in the English language because it is what we put after it that determines our life’s trajectory. What am I? I am powerful, worthy, valuable, invincible… I am human,” says Barbara Kingsley, of Thornton, as she describes, I am Human, the book she has written about living with HIV for more than two decades.

Ms Kingsley is a motivational speaker, HIV activist and counsellor for people living with HIV. She has also run the Comrades Marathon three times.

The book launch is due to be held at the V&A Waterfront Exclusive Books this evening, Wednesday June 15, from 5pm and Ms Kingsley will be interviewed by retired judge and fellow Aids activist Edwin Cameron.

“The book is powerful because it shows my journey. It starts from the day that I was diagnosed: how I felt, how I lived in a place of utter denial that nearly cost me my life, and how I never gave up. It’s about giving us a voice, showing our faces,” says Ms Kingsley.

The former long-distance runner was diagnosed with HIV 22 years ago, and eight years later, she was diagnosed with full-blown Aids.

“It was a very different time back then. We had just come out of the 90s. There was no treatment available for me because it was not affordable. I think at that time the treatment cost about R10 000 a month, and I was not even earning a fraction of that in 2000,” she says.

“That’s when the Treatment Action Campaign came into play with Zackie Achmat and the uprising to have treatment for all. I would not have afforded treatment and I would have died.”

According to the World Health Organization, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) targets cells in the immune system and weakens the body’s ability to fight against infections. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (Aids).

“HIV is not simply a medical diagnosis, it is a psychological thing that one needs to accept and come to terms with,” says Ms Kingsley.

She started writing the book in 2012 and set it aside for a number of years. She continued writing in 2020 and finished it within three months.

“I feel it is my duty as a long-term survivor to speak out, to live by example and to show people hope and possibility. Not everybody is afforded the love and the unconditional acceptance that I was privileged to have and a lot of people have died because of it,” she says.

I am human explores rejection, acceptance, transphobia, discrimination and the stigma surrounding HIV and Aids.

“It is a basic human need of every person to be valued and to be accepted for who they are, unconditionally. Every single person deserves to be accepted for who they are no matter your status or sexual orientation,” she says.

“That is why I wrote the book because there is only one of me, and I can only speak so much but this book gives me a voice and a platform to go as far as I can.“

I am human is available for purchase at the V&A Waterfront Exclusive Books or directly from Ms Kingsley. For more information about the book or Ms Kingsley’s support services, eamil barbarakingsleyhiv@gmail.com.

Barbara Kingsley says she wrote I am Human because she felt she had a duty as a long-term survivor of HIV/Aids to speak out and show people hope and possibility