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A Story of Love and Caring for Valentine’s Day: Living With HIV

February 14, 2010

By Christine Hills

Valentine’s Day is a time for honouring those we love and those who give love every day of the year. Lulu Boxoza and Temba House in Mthatha, South Africa are PWRDF partners in the struggle  against HIV and AIDS and their work has shown that love, education and good nutrition go a long way to saving lives and loving our neighbours as ourselves.
My name is Vuyokazi Khenyane. I was born on April 12, 1973 and I live in Mpeko Location, Mthatha, South Africa.  I was diagnosed as being HIV Positive on February 2, 2000.  When the doctor broke this news to me, I was shocked and fell into a state of depression.  A severe case of Herpes Zoster below my left breast caused me to become very weak and this only made my situation worse.
At the time of my diagnosis there was no available Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ARVs) and no proper counselling. I thought of death and was afraid of the symptoms that would come during the later stages of the virus.  I cried and cursed everybody and thought about witchcraft as a means of coping. I even cursed God asking, why me? In September of that year my boyfriend passed away and I thought that my time for death had come.
But through God’s mercy and His grace I met a woman, the late Nomgcobo Manyadu, who introduced me to ‘sis’ Lulu Booi-Boxoza at Temba Community Development Services.  I received a lot of love and empathy at Temba House and recognized that all life is in God’s hand. The education about HIV and AIDS that I received enabled me to move on in my life and I was able to disclose my status to my family.  As time went on, with the help of a support group, I disclosed my status publicly.
In 2005 I became very sick. My CD 4 Count had dropped below 100 and I was prepared for ARVs, which by then were available, as a last means of building me up.  I recovered and I started a Temba Support Group, assisting HIV and AIDS patients who were bedridden. I was also able to contribute time to the Home Based Care Programme, where we visit chronically and terminally ill people in their homes in order to support their families as well. We refer those who have nobody at home to look after them to the Temba Shelter and I encourage people who are still afraid to go for testing to attend clinics through Temba Workshops.
In 2009 I became sick once more and I was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and entered treatment.  Mr. Mike Sodaba and ‘sis’ Prim visited me at home and referred me to the Temba Shelter, where I was given badly needed support, love and care during my time of need.  It was not the first time I had been admitted to the shelter. Whenever I felt weak and not well in the past, I would admit myself. This time I was very weak and learned from the information I got at the Temba Workshops that I was suffering from Immune Reconstitution Syndrome.  This syndrome occurs when someone has taken ARVs while their immune system is very weak and prone to infection, symptoms not clinically evident during the commencement of ARVs, the side effects of this began to appear and they can be drastic.  I was given a lot of love and support at the Temba Shelter so that I could continue to take ARVs while I was being treated for TB.  I remained there for three weeks and what helped my recovery so much was the good nutrition that I received.  When I was discharged I went back home and I was able to start advising and teaching people about HIV in my community.  I knew that assisting other people would make me stronger because my aim in life is to assist people who are HIV Positive to become strong and to know that to be HIV Positive is not a death sentence.
My vision is to see a Country and a Generation which is free from the stigma of HIV, as well as discrimination, and to assist those people who are negative to continue to stay negative.
“Musani ukundisizela, zisizeleni nina — kufanayo maqabane, masinqobe I HIV.  Know your status, and come out with your status to save other lives”.
Vuyokazi Khenyane
Temba Support Group

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