Summary Leading up to World AIDS Day 2013, AfroAIDSInfo is proud to present a series of profiles and audio podcasts featuring member organisations leading the fight against HIV and AIDS. The audio clips provide an overview of the organisations and their plans for World AIDS Day.
We interviewed Ncengi Mthethwa, a community member and asked her to share her personal experiences regarding her family and community who have been affected by HIV/AIDS.
Question: Why do you say that your community is under threat? Answer: I have a strong feeling that our community is under threat when it comes to HIV/AIDS for different reasons.
Stigma is still a problem because sometimes when working with the community members, we found that some people are even afraid to visit the nearest clinics, they prefer visiting the farthest clinics for HIV testing and getting their ARV treatment. They do this so that their neighbours and relatives should not know that they have HIV.
An example is my brother who was left to die at home because he “deserved to die by not listening when adults told him not to sleep around” shows that there are some community members who still believe that those who get HIV opened themselves up to the virus.
Currently, I have an aunt who is bedridden because of AIDS but she refuses to visit a hospital. All the symptoms show that she might be HIV-positive as she is suffering from shingles, diarrhoea and had severe weight loss, but she is convinced that it is a calling for her to become a sangoma (traditional healer).
Another case that I had to deal with was when a community member refused to go to a clinic for his medication saying, “What is the use of taking medication because they (clinic staff) are all chasing me away saying that I will infect them?” He worries about food, where to keep his medicines, indicating how their community is “under threat”.
Polygamous marriages in his community contributes to the HIV threat because people are happy to get married but nobody is willing to take a stand and say, “Because you have other relationships, let’s first get tested”.
Question: Based on your family experiences, can you tell us why it is so important for people to get tested and to adhere to treatment? Answer: Getting tested and knowing one’s HIV status is very important in order to prolong one’s life. Knowing your HIV status and ART adherence are essential, as it gives hope to others who are in a similar situation.
Taking your ARVs correctly is possible but becomes difficult when one has no support. “Let’s take my brother’s case, he started ARVs and experienced great improvement in his health. The problem began when he returned home and found no support from the family, no support in terms of information on the dangers of non-adherence and less support on accepting his status which led him to give up hope”.
“Because of the lack of support, my brother sadly died and the next thing I heard was the funeral date. My family blamed me for taking him to hospital, as AIDS was seen as a disgrace to the family, so after that I became their enemy.”
“I have seen people taking their ARVs and had success stories to tell. They go back to their work, they support their families, they contribute to the community and there is a smaller burden of orphans who could later become street kids and cause havoc within the community”.
The message from Ncengi Mthethwa is to know your status as this will reduce the burden to your family, reduce fear, stigma and taboos about HIV/AIDS.
Author: Jodilee Erasmus (B.Soc Sci)
Reviewed by: Hendra van Zyl (MPH), Jean Fourie (MPhil) and Michelle Moorhouse (MBBCh, DA) Article contribution made by: Ms Ncengi Mthethwa Telephonic interview by: Ms Ncengi Mthethwa
Contact:email@example.com Date: December 2013
Erasmus, J. (2013) A family and community under threat: A personal testimony, AfroAIDSinfo. Issue 13 no. 12, Public (Open access).