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Former Miss South Africa opens up about her personal story around HIV

Rolene Strauss, the former Miss South Africa and Miss World, who is a mother to two boys, took to her Instagram timeline sharing her personal story around HIV.

After the birth of her first son back in 2017, she was completing her medical studies and was exposed to HIV while treating a patient at a hospital during her call one evening. She commented, “I was breastfeeding at the time and had to go on post-exposure prophylaxis. I can still remember all the questions (even as a medical student) running through my head at the time”.

Now pregnant with her third, Rolene has joined the #ForeverWena campaign because as a mother, she understands the crucial link between maternal and child health.

Can you share more about your experience when you were exposed to HIV while treating a patient and how it affected you personally and professionally?

After the birth of our first son, amidst the whirlwind of completing my medical studies, I found myself confronted with a reality I never imagined facing. It was during one of my evening calls at the hospital when I was inadvertently exposed to HIV while treating a patient. At that moment, time seemed to stand still as fear and uncertainty flooded my mind. I was breastfeeding at the time, and the weight of responsibility pressed heavily on my shoulders as I realized the potential implications for both myself and my baby.

Despite my medical background, the flood of questions and concerns was relentless. Would this affect my child? How would this impact our family's future? The journey that followed was one of vigilance, undergoing post-exposure prophylaxis while navigating the delicate balance of motherhood and medical obligations. It was a period marked by fear, but also by resilience and an unwavering determination to protect my family.

How has your experience with HIV exposure influenced your perspective on maternal and child health?

Fast forward to the present, and I find myself on the brink of welcoming our third child into the world. This journey, coupled with my past experience, has ingrained within me a profound understanding of the intricate link between a mother's health and the well-being of her child. It's a realization that has fuelled my passion for advocating for HIV awareness and prevention, especially within the realm of motherhood.

Image: Instagram/@RoleneStrauss

What inspired you to join the #ForeverWena campaign, and what message do you hope to convey through this initiative?

That's why my involvement in the #ForeverWena campaign holds such profound significance for me. It's not just about raising awareness; it's about embracing a responsibility born from personal experience. It's about empowering mothers to prioritize their own health as an integral part of safeguarding their children's future.

How do you see campaigns like #ForeverWena making a difference in reducing the stigma associated with HIV and encouraging open discussions about sexual health?

Preparing for motherhood goes beyond nursery decorations and baby showers; it's about ensuring that you are equipped with the knowledge and resources to protect both yourself and your little one. Specifically focussing on HIV in the realm of motherhood, I want to ensure that all mothers and potential mothers know that motherhood begins long before the first cuddle, pregnancy, or even conception! It starts with the health choices we make for ourselves long before we even start thinking about growing a family.

Could you elaborate on the resources provided by the #ForeverWena campaign, such as the WhatsApp chatbot, and how they can assist individuals seeking information on HIV?

How wonderful that the #ForeverWena campaign is offering a lifeline of support and information through its WhatsApp chatbot (+27849526152), social channels like its website ( Instagram (@foreverwenaza), as well as events and initiatives. Knowledge is power, and having a safe and open channel to ask your questions and gain knowledge is priceless when it comes to reducing stigma and protecting ourselves and our children.

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