This Beauty Queen Used Her HIV-Positive Status As A Positive Platform For Change

Miss Congo UK 2017 is a beautiful and inspiring young woman.

If you needed a quick story of inspiration, look no further than Horcelie Sinda Wa Mbongo.

The 22-year-old activist was just crowned Miss Congo UK, but she’s also HIV positive, and used her platform to create awareness for the disease. 

“I was born in the Congo and I only discovered that I was HIV positive here in the UK,” Horcelie told BBC Africa about getting the diagnosis at age 11. “I was one of many children born with HIV who did not have the medication, but somehow the virus is not fighting the body as fast as other people. What that means, is that I lived ten years without any medication at all.”

According to UN AIDS, the Democratic Republic of Congo has approximately 370,000 people living with HIV, with 11 percent being children under that age of 14.

“I don’t think there’s anyone to blame at this stage,” she said in response to if she blames her parents for being born with the disease. 

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Adding, “I wasn’t there to blame anyone’s actions. That’s the way life goes. Even with things happening in the world today. Who do you blame? Who is the cause of many things? It goes the same with our personal lives… It’s about taking courage and saying, ‘It’s life, it’s a mistake, it’s part of my life and it’s time to take up the cross instead of wasting time blaming.’

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Can you tell us a little bit about what happened in your life to inspire you to launch African help now. Yeah. So in 2006, I was at work putting together a photo shoot and I got a call that my father had had a heart attack in Ghana and at that very moment it was like, what? What did you say? And [UNKNOWN] listening, and I was like who's the doctor? Where is he? What hospital? And no one had any answers and I was like oh wait, he's not here in America, he is. Okay let's regroup and think it through and so as I started to regroup and try to figure out who the doctor was and I was getting no answers. >A friend of mine just happen to IM me and was like hey I'm in Icard, I was like my father just had a heart attack, go find him. And he found him in the hallway, hadn't seen a doctor yet and he sorted him out, like he got him in a hospital room. Wow. > He talked to the doctor,he talked to the nurse,he made sure that he had care, and At that very moment is when I realized I was lucky. I'd been given a gift, and if I didn't have that friend, I don't know how this story would have ended for me. And so afterward I just started think about it, and it was like what happened to those people? And the people in our community where my dad lives were really instrumental in his recovery. And so the first health fair was literally just that, a gift. Thank you for helping me get my dad back together. So, I just went into the hallways at Essence. I remember just being like, hey! I'm doing a health fair. And they were like, what do you mean? And I remember sending out an email and people would walk over to my desk with oh, I went to the dollar store this weekend. Toothbrushes, tooth paste. So, the healthcare was you reaching out to friends in your network- In my network. Just getting materials. Just getting materials. And then I reached out to friends who are going to Nana, who are doctors, lawyers, the whole gamut. It was like, if you're gonna be there, give me one day and let's see what we can do, how we can affect change. And First day, twenty five volunteers. Woman 2: Wow. Woman 1: Three hundred and fifty participants showed up. No advertising. Woman 2: In Ghana? Woman 1: In Ghana. No advertising. It was in Pokuase, a town where my dad lives. There was no flyer, no radio, no advertising. Literally told one person. And I was like, oh, she'll tell somebody. [LAUGH] Somebody'll show up. They'll know. They'll be there. And when we got there, 350, they were just already waiting. Eight o'clock in the morning. Ready to move, ready to take action, let's go. Let's go. And that's when we realized, that's when I realized specifically, how important a A day with the doctor, an opportunity to see a doctor and get my teeth checked for the first time was so important, was something I had taken for granted my whole life because I lived here and it's accessible, and knowing how to give a self breast examination Talking to women who had no idea what I was talking about. That they themselves could check their own breast. They were like, why would I do it. So when did you say, OK, I'm gonna leave my world of fashion and beauty? Oh, that took a while. I'm leaving this life. It's, I don't want to say comfortable, but it's one that you're familiar with. What I was familiar with. And and then you have a support system around you. Right. Right. Right. Right. and to say I'm jumping into the world of non-profit. That took awhile, that didnt, I continued to do African help now all the while working at Every year, they knew when Anna was going to Donna for Christmas. They just knew. Don't book a photo shoot. It's your problem. You'll be by yourself. You'll be by yourself. No craft services. No model, no nothing. No food. Noted. And so it wasn't until about 2008, 2009 when I started to realize, okay, this is really what you want to do. And let's find a way to do it. And so then I just made the transition. That opportunity came and I was like well, this is a great opportunity for me to do something different. And I'm gonna just take it. And it was scary, and I had no idea how to do it, but. You took that leap. I just took the leap and We've been figuring it out ever since. [LAUGH] I heard that. Now, Cory, how are you involved with African Health Now? Cuz of Nana. Because of Nana. She went to your office and made you do it, I know. [LAUGH] I don't know what I contributed- Light bully. Light bully. That December, of her many annual trips to Ghana, but quite seriously, I have my daughter's father is Haitian, so I've been to Haiti and seen the devastation of the earthquake and People live in poverty I had been to Ghana, that's another story, I have been to Ghana and I've been to some very poverty stricken areas. I don't like to use the word third world. I've seen somethings as a black American I realize What little, just a little contribution can make a big impact. I'll never forget Nana coming back and saying like, she basically was giving breast exams, just based on her own annual check up. She was like, well, let me show you, and this woman was like, oh, I didn't even know I could do it on my own, so just that little Thing. I knew that any little bit can make a difference and I have seen where just a $200 donation can have a big impact. And go a lot further- A lot further. Yes. And anticipate. And how does Essence support or work with African Health Now? Well, we're going to be partnering with Nana on her cocktail benefit that's happening Beginning next Tuesday, October 20. Tickets are available at. And I want to point out it's not Africa Health Now, it's African Health Now for those of you who are going to search and want to get involved. And so we're partnering with the You know in helping supply volunteers, contributing to the gift bag, I one of the host committee, members of host committee. But also there is love for Nana. You know what I mean when we >In this business,it's all about our relationships and this is a relationship that Nana has nurtured even after not being here. I mean when she comes in the office we're like,where's the baby. > [LAUGH] I know> Where,where? I'm like how's baby girl doing? Where she at? My name is Nana and I am more than my daughter. > [LAUGH] Hi, Nana. > [SOUND]