Horcelie Wa Bongo
Artist, Activist & HIV/AIDS Campaigner
Horcelie Sinda is an artist by profession, an activist and most importantly she is a believer and a fighter. Her family moved to the UK when she was 9, and at 11 years old, she found out that she was born HIV+. Since then, Horcelie shares that it has been “a journey of discovery, pain and forgiveness”.Horcelie is currently engaged in a Global campaign to end aids, globally, especially in Congo, by 2030. It has been a long journey that led Horcelie to campaigning.
Growing up HIV+
Horcelie shares that growing up, the teenage years were difficult because you went through it not knowing what people knew about HIV so mentioning your status was always a fear of losing friends and facing discrimination or unnecessary questions.
The fears of the unknown people’s reaction were something that constantly she had to keep in the back of her mind. Dating was even harder because she is a firm believer in disclosing your status to your partner. Sometimes, Horcelie shares, disclosing your status meant that you opened yourself to whatever reactions and sometimes that was resentment and people apologizing for her illness or partners who hide because they are afraid of being known.
“My status is sometimes always in the back of my mind because in everything you find yourself in whether relationships or friendships you always want to find the people or someone who loves you and accepts you and just sees that it is just something that is apart of your life. You don’t want someone to see you as a disease.”
There are stories Horcelie shares with us that reminded us that sometimes people forget about the pain and fragile situations someone puts themselves through by disclosing their status but she believes that although there are others who may debate, you should always disclose your status.
“......because you know a lot of people who are positive don’t tell their partners but me personally I cannot do that because I feel like I am lying to the person and the person deserves to know. I always say people should share their status with their partner because there are people being killed just for that.” So sharing your status if you are HIV+ is not just for the other person, it is also for your own protection. You have to try and remain your authentic self regardless of what your status is.
Regaining Faith in South Africa
Horcelie shares with us that throughout her journey and as a born again Christian there were moments she felt that, “God didn’t really love me that much because a lot of things have already happened in my life. Being HIV+ is the thing that had mostly brought me down and brought me tears”. But this all changed when she went to South Africa on a mission trip, where her group have health education, not just on HIV/AIDS, but also sexually transmitted diseases, rape, and menstruation. It was in South Africa, during her free times, she turned to God for guidance and healing. “ I was there for three months and I had the time to just pray to God. I would go up in the mountains and seek God and pray to God and pour my heart out to God about everything I felt at the moment about everything and including my status. I am so glad I went to South Africa because it was a healing space for me and it gave me time to be myself. Gave time to be just me. It was great and I am so grateful for that because even then God showed his hand, his grace and mercy.” It was in South Africa that Horcelie finally disclosed her status to the world with the group she was. She shared that certain behaviors she had seen throughout the trip from fellow volunteers and knowing the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, made her frustrated and angry enough to finally share her story and status, and from there on, she has used her story to bring awareness as someone born with HIV and living with it.
Becoming MISS CONGO UK 2017
Horcelie shares that when she joined MISS CONGO UK, she “first disclosed my status to the Miss Congo team because I was going to do it on the day but then I decided that might not work because I might get a lot of rejection and negativity and comments” and that would my point of bringing awareness. Horcelie shares that while she was in training for MISS CONGO UK she had a tour at the same time where she went and did campaigns to bring awareness about AIDS throughout the UK. During this time, she clinged to her faith, she shares, and asked God to prepare her not just physically but emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually because “ some people don’t just attack you physically, they do it spiritually too.” God gave her the win she deserved and in 2017 she was crowned the new MISS CONGO UK. She said when her story went viral especially after the interview with BBC, she was surprised but thankful. Unfortunately, she eventually decided to step down as the crowned due to internal issues but is forever an experience she would never forget and since her win she has then her platform to bring awareness to AIDS/HIV and the emotional, psychological and spiritual traumas people go through. And she has decided to this with her own Congolese Community.
Lobiko Ya Congo
Being someone who is living with HIV, Horcelie has made it a mission to go forth and use her knowledge, wisdom and experience to help others find healing. She is the founder of Lobiko ya Congo which aims to educate and promote healing from issues that the Congolese diaspora face such as HIV/AIDS. You can find Horcelie involved on building awareness through social media and by speaking at events. She is currently raising funds to visit Congo and work with two organizations that work with children living with HIV and women reproductive health.
“In Congo right women are being raped any second, and that woman could contract aids and die of aids or their child will be born of HIV and that child can die from aids. This is a serious matter. The issue of AIDS and HIV is something that impacts everyone because it is about health which means it is a part of the economy. If health is bad in the country the economy will be low, and this is a problem in Congo because a lot of people don’t have access to treatment. And it’s not even just AIDS even with Ebola, people don’t have access. You have a population where a high percentage are illiterate, have no healthcare. Health should be a right, but no one is being given their right because there is no systemac foundation.”
On Being Empowered:
To be a woman is strengthening and I am grateful for all that has happened because it has enabled me to do things I don’t think I would have done at my age. If i did not observe how others treated me or did not treated I wouldn’t have paid attention to what God has given me. So to be an empowering woman as a I am and as a Christian is really about submitting myself to my God and creator because I could’ve gone through what I went and still not be wise. So since I have been 15/16 years old I have always prayed for God to give me wisdom, knowledge and understanding and I grateful that God continues to answer my prayer. I am not the wisest person in the world but I have only become wise because I have allowed God to make me wise. And empowering other people in their lives also empowers me because I’ve seen my self fallen and it those moments have allowed me to use what God allowed me to gain in those moments. Certain I have went through have empowered me. I’m not saying I am empowered because I am powerful but because I am just this woman who God helped along the way.
And being Congolese woman I have always been proud of my roots. Being Congolese to me is rich not just in resources but also rich in the cultures, the people we are, and in everything we have been through we are still standing and still fighting. It is rich in our languages. Being able to speak my native language Lingala and knowing if go home, no matter how many years after, they can still see prideness in me because I can still speak our language. This is what makes me proud to be a Congolese woman and empowered because we are going through a lot globally and especially in Congo but there is always triumph in all of it.
For Young Congolese girls and women:
Know your history. I know people hear this all the time but it is very important. Learn your history and every day try. You don’t have to know everything about Congolese history but learn your history in a loving way. Appreciate your history because through the appreciation you learn that your people were not enslaved just because they were people but because of what they had. There’s still a lot of elements of post-traumatic slavery but learn that history. Another thing is work hard for what God has given in your hands. If you have a gift of speaking, ask God to guide you. Any gift you are good at and that doesn’t only benefit you but benefits others. I’m not saying do just anything, but I am saying do things that supports people and psychological and emotional growth. Do things that bring growth in other people’s lives. Also give yourself space to learn about all these different things for yourself. It’s a learning process. Learn about what you need and what your body needs, what things are healthy and unhealthy for you psychologically and emotionally. You learn all these things in your space. But you can learn from other people, and may not even be from people you don’t like. Learn to learn from people who have a different story than you. Have a learning space in your life.