South Africa: Helping give life back

Date: June 26, 2012
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I will call myself Nomsa Motha*. It is not my real name and I will tell you why I do not reveal it. I am 32-year-old mother of two. I am living positively with HIV and AIDS. But I have one problem.

With many of us still battling with stigmatisation, I have had a hard time revealing my status to my in-laws.

My husband knows about my status and he is ok with it. But I worry about his relatives and whether they will accept me with the disease I am living with or if they might push him to leave me.

I already lost the father of my first child when I told him I was diagnosed with HIV.

I found out about my status in 2004 when my second baby, a daughter I had with my first lover, died at three months.

I was devastated by her death. I had gotten so close to her and parting broke my heart.

I had not suspected that she could have died of HIV. But at the hospital it was revealed that my baby was infected with HIV and had died of an HIV-related illness.

The nurses and doctors advised me to go for HIV counselling and testing. I did and the result came back positive.

I was still hurting and mourning my baby. The results just terrified me. I thought I was going to die just as she had.

Then I had to tell my partner about the HIV status and that it had taken our baby’s life. He walked out on me just when I needed his support. I was depressed.

Fortunately my family members were supportive. They were there for me throughout the grief of losing a baby and a partner.

The baby was later buried and my health began to deteriorate. I went for a tuberculosis (TB) test in a nearby clinic and the result came back positive. I thought that was it. It was just a matter of time before I got sick and eventually died, I told myself.

But I was surrounded with people who cared about my wellbeing and they encouraged me to take my TB treatment so that I could start taking antiretroviral treatment (ART) afterward.

Truthfully, I took part in all the treatments just to please everybody who encouraged me.

But the turning point was the day I met a woman in the corridor of a local clinic. She took interest in me and I confided in her, revealing my status to her.

She told me about a support group for people living with HIV and AIDS.

The name of the support group is Let Us Grow. It was founded by mum Rose. I went there and to my surprise I fell in love with it. I was uplifted because I had given up on life.

Mum Rose and the other members welcomed me with warm hearts. With time I got to understand HIV. Even though the counsellor had tried to explain to me what it meant to be HIV positive I just did not get it.

But here I was with people who were telling me that they were HIV positive and they were living happy lives. I guess I needed someone who could relate to me their stories of living with HIV.

That gave me a boost. I immediately became a new person. I changed my attitude. I wanted to live and it was my call to make the most of it.

I started taking treatment seriously. I could even recognise the changes in me that I had never seen in my darker days.

I picked up the pieces. I got back on my feet. I started to live. I took care of my self. I got a boyfriend. I told him my status and he accepted me the way I am. Later we got married. I had gained a lot of education about HIV and AIDS. I had learned that there was life after HIV, that I could live fully like everybody else.

My husband and I decided to have a baby. I had gathered that as long as we followed medical orders we could give birth to a healthy, HIV-negative baby. The grace of God was with us and the baby was born HIV-negative.

Even though we are still scared to tell our status to his parents, we are happy together.

Now my work is to revive the life of those who think being HIV-positive is a curse; that there is no hope for them.

I tell them they are wrong. I am a living example. I also care for bedridden patients who have no one.

I instil in people the idea that they are in control of the disease and it is not the other way around.

When you do the right things HIV and AIDS cannot kill you. People should start taking control and stop fearing the unknown. One day, with the right attitude, we will beat this thing.

I am very grateful for the support I get from Mum Rose and her co-workers. They are very strong. They gave me my life back. Now it’s my turn to give life back to my fellow sisters and brothers.

*Real names have not been used.

This “I” Story is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service special series on care work.


0 thoughts on “South Africa: Helping give life back”

Fiona Nicholson says:

Nomsa, stop worrying about what other people say. If they are so ignorant and cruel to reject you, they are not worth considering. Your husband knew your status before he married you; surely he will not be such a “woes” as to leave you just because his parents want him to! My belief is that more people are dying of stigma and denial, than AIDS! Keep strong, we need people like you to keep challenging this shameful stigma until the ignorance is eradicated.

Sethunya says:

Hi Nomsa!You are such a brave lady who can stood the test of time. You know life is full of people with different views and perfections and some can even make your life tougher but you prove that relly you are a woman. It is not easy to find someone who is so honest to disclose her/his status to another especially when it comes to issues of relashionships as some are bitter with the intension to revenge to a wrong person but you did a good job by notifyng your partner therefore there is no need to worry about relatives because he has accepted, respected and shown you a great dignity and he really deserve an applause for that. Really God is great. Countinue to provide this education to other people and hopeful the stigma and discrimination will decrease.

Watipaso Mzungu Junior--Malawian journalist says:

Nomsa, you don’t need to worry with your life. Neither do you need to brood over what people will say about you, rather focus on your set goals.

There are many HIV positive people out here who are living happy. First, you need to disentangle yourself from self-imprisonment on account of your being HIV positive.

This will help you live positively. This will help you face life without caring about what people will say about you. Always take comfort and pleasure in the fact that it is not only HIV positive people dying, but everyone can die.

Just yesterday, four people died in Malawi in a car accident. Survivors are currently in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the hospital. It is just a matter of time before each one of us dies.

HIV or not HIV, each one of us will die one day; and sometimes leaving behind HIV positive persons still enjoying life.

May God help you!

teresa says:

I feel for you I have similar problems. If you require any support or financial assistance please email me.

Noe says:

Nomsa you inspire me as i also have relatives who are living positive. I feel we share the same problem and need moral support.

peter says:

hey sis whatever you going through i feel for you,do not give up and do not forget thst God is always with you.
I wish all the people could understand and be able to treat people with dignity and equality. stay focussed and strong ok! love you!

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