It was a Tuesday morning in early April 2001. I watched the autumn rain as it trickled down the car window and disappeared into the street. Mr Gordon had chosen me to represent the school at the Free State HIV/AIDS Conference. I didn’t know what to expect but I hoped the experience would be a meaningful one. Fortunately it was.
I arrived at the Callie Human Auditorium and after a brief introduction it was on to the first speaker. His name was Christo Greyling. He was a haemophilic and consequently needed regular blood transfusions. But everything changed in September 1987 when his doctor told him he was HIV positive. The news came as quite a shock to his four roommates and to his fiancé, Liesel, but it was ultimately their love and support that carried him through.
Shortly after he discovered he was HIV positive, Christo began thinking a great deal about his death. He even went as far as planning his own funeral. One thing he was very clear about was the plan he had for the rest of his life. And so to make sure things happened the way he intended, he wrote a detailed list of all the things he wanted to do, including piloting an aeroplane and going overseas.
Telling the rest of the community about his condition was a very difficult thing for Christo to do. Most of the people he confronted were disgusted and refused to have anything to do with him. But instead of being troubled by that he was able get past their views and still respect those people for their feelings.
While driving home on that still rainy evening, I began thinking about Christo’s talk. I recalled the list of goals, the respect he had for the people that turned him away and the way he was able to deal with the reality of the situation so well. That is when I began to understand the point he was trying to get across: The only way to live is to do so with a clear vision of what you want and an open and realistic mind to take you there.
Christo was very specific about the things he wanted to do and that is why he was able to stay healthy and focused for fourteen years. He was sensible enough to understand that not everyone would be comfortable with his condition and at the same time compassionate enough not to hate other people for the way they felt. All this enabled him to live his life with integrity and make a difference in the lives of others. All this would enable me to do the same.