'HIV-Aids ravaging priests very hard'

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

HIV-positive Methodist Church priest Reverend Mandla Mdabe says the HI virus is not only ravaging ordinary people, but is also hitting men of the cloth hard.

He says since disclosing his status in 2005, he has been getting a lot of calls from other priests disclosing their status to him.

"Many said they have been secretly living with HIV for a long time but could not come out for fear of discriminationby their communities and their churches.

"I know a number of priests from different denominations who are living with the virus," says Mdabe.

Mdabe, 50, says he discovered that he was HIV-positive two years ago while he was counselling pregnant mothers at McCord Hospital in Durban.

He says he was feeling okay, but decided that he should undergo an HIV test. "I felt I should lead by example by testing myself, and that's when I discovered that I was HIV-positive.

"It was easy for me to accept the results because I am a counsellor, but I know how difficult it can be for an ordinary person, that's why pre-counselling is important," says Mdabe.

He says after knowing his status, it became easy for him to "fight the enemy that I knew".

A father to a daughter aged 14, Mdabe says it did not bother him how and when he got the virus.

"I discourage people from trying to investigate where and how they got the virus.

"I don't know how I got it, it could happen that I got it through sex or through my work, but that's not important to me. All I have to worry about is maintaining my CD4 count," he says.

Mdabe says he is a member of the African Network of Religious Leaders Living with Aids that will be launched soon.

He encourages other churches to embrace HIV-positive priests.