“I have been living with HIV since I was born. My earliest memories of human life are of being in a world of wonder, light, and happiness, together with feelings of great discomfort and the suffering of severe pain and tiredness. I was in Grade 2, when I realised that something is wrong with my body.”
These are the heart-rending words of Ashlynne Van Wyk, 17, of Kuilsriver, who has written a book about being born with HIV and her faith, which helped her through it.
Ashlynne was born with HIV and was only told at the age of 12 that she had the virus. She lost her mother to Aids.
She decided to put her emotions and experiences on paper in the hope that it would help others who may be in her situation. She also wants her book to help break the stigma around HIV/Aids.
Myself, God & HIV has been published by Shofar Publications together with Haroldene Tshienda. The book will be launched on December 2, a day after World Aids Day.
Ashlynne, who is in Grade 11, said she had spent a year writing the book to express her inner emotions and her relationship with God and realised it was time to share it with the world.
“I had to wait for God,” she said.
“I had a dream and a vision by God and it was the perfect timing. I want to reach out to those who are suffering in pain, not just with HIV.”
Ashlynne said the book would come as a surprise to many but she was prepared for what might come from it.
“I always heard people saying I have HIV but I never understood what it was, and that my mother had died of it and in fact God was protecting me,” she said.
“I was 12-years-old when I learnt that I have HIV. Now when I look back at my life, I cannot believe what I have faced. I realise I am not a victim, I am a survivor.”
In the book, Ashlynne shares how she had to take six pills a day, the loss of her grandmother and her encounters on the playground and many other life experiences while living with HIV.
After her grandmother died, Ashlynne was placed in the care of her aunt, Pastor Charmaine Daniels, a former police officer and spiritual leader who has written a book of her own, Breaking Through Truths.
Daniels said she naturally had concerns when Ashlynne said she wanted to share her life story with others: “I asked her if she is ready for what is coming.
“She said it so beautifully: she is writing to HIV and herself as she was scared of HIV before, but God became her foundation.”
Tshienda said the book would inspire many.
“When I look at Ashlynne, I smile; she carries so much elegance and charisma with her,” she said.
“The light of God and the joy she carries with her makes me want to climb in her head because how can a teenager go through so many storms and still be so positive?
“When I heard her story, I told Charmaine that Ashlynne needs to tell her story and educate young people.”
“This is a historical moment.”
The book will be available at Shofar’s bookstore for R180 and as an ebook (R89) at www.shofarbooks.co.za
Below is an extract from Myself, God & HIV:
“But nobody, not even my grandma who I was staying with, told me that I actually suffered from chronic sickness. Feeling sick and miserable were constant buddies of mine. Several times a day I was forced to interrupt my childhood activities. Why? Because with the painstaking ritual of taking six tablets daily. These were so huge that I got nauseous before even taking it. Adding to these frustrations was my grandma telling me that nothing was wrong with me. According to her, I was just a special grandchild.”