Having HIV has not been a death sentence for Sophie Jayawardene.
She will be sharing her story about HIV on stage for the first time at the Puawai festival.
Jayawardene was diagnosed with HIV in 1989 after a routine check-up, having just moved to New Zealand from Zimbabwe.
“I was pregnant and happily married and it was taken away in one second,” she says.
She didn’t think she would be still alive to tell the tale but the Mt Roskill resident has used her struggle to become an advocate for people living with HIV in New Zealand.
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In 2014, there were 217 people diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand, bringing the total number of people living with HIV in this country to around 3000.
Jayawardene says these people are still stigmatised.
“Discrimination is today’s killer, nothing else, because people stay in the closest, they don’t want to come out and talk about it,” she says.