HIV: My Nine Lives

By Cindy Pivacic.


A friend and I were chatting recently, and he jokingly said, after hearing about my bursitis in one hip and sciatica in the other, that I was busy using up my nine lives. I have cheated on my health challenges many times already. He is not far off the mark.

I do, however, give credit to the healthcare that I have received over the years and, to a large degree, myself, purely because without the resilience and determination to survive and thrive, I would not be here now.

He asked me what durability tactics I had applied to flourish under these harsh obstacles. This chat got me thinking, and I decided to jot down some techniques I gave to my ongoing productive existence.

Acceptance: After some downtime, I started to accept my condition as an ongoing part of my life and be kinder to myself.

Educated myself: I researched my various conditions. Knowledge empowered me to make informed decisions and take control of my health. I continue to update myself with the latest research, treatments, and self-care procedures. I do discuss my findings with my healthcare providers for confirmation. 

Support network: I Surrounded myself with an accepting and supportive network of friends, family, and healthcare professionals who understood and empathised with my condition. I hosted a support group for one of my health challenges, as there was nothing available at the time in my area. 

Setting realistic goals: I set doable goals that align with my abilities and limitations. I broke them down into manageable steps to maintain my motivation to make achievable progress.

Self-care: I scheduled self-care procedures to support my physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This practice included regular exercise, healthy eating, getting enough rest, engaging in activities I enjoy, and managing stress through relaxation approaches. I also took myself out of my comfort zone to engage in activities that scared me. i.e. Tandem paragliding.

Advocated myself: I became my own ‘supporter/representative/spokesperson’ (whatever you want to call me) by communicating openly with my healthcare team and the public. I asked questions, sought second opinions, and participated in decisions regarding my treatment. By putting myself in the public eye, I opened myself up to people wanting to assist me with the guidance I otherwise would not have been exposed to.

Purpose: I explored activities that offered me a sense of purpose. I collaborated with a radio, a television station, and later a chronic life insurance company, namely, AllLife Insurance, to create awareness and educate people on living a positive existence, no matter their health challenges.

Positive mindset: I have always been fortunate to have a positive outlook on life, and I maintain this by practising gratitude and focusing on the things I can do rather than what I cannot. I surround myself with positive people who encourage me to flourish. 

Celebrate milestones: I celebrate my achievements, no matter how small. Each step forward is a victory. It is essential to recognise and appreciate progress. Every year on the 11th of November, the date of my HIV diagnosis, I celebrate by updating my tattoo date on my back (I survived another year), write my virus a birthday message which I share on my social media, and take myself out for a large slice of chocolate cheesecake and coffee. How do you celebrate?


Embracing your nine lives means embracing your present moment and making the most of your life, despite the challenges your chronic condition may bring.

A chronic condition can affect anyone. How you manage it is what makes the difference.

You can get cover of up to 3 million rand for your chronic health condition and up to 10 million if you are living with HIV.

SMS CHRONIC to 33857 to find out more. 

I did!

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure, and is not a substitute for professional consultation with a health professional.


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