November 29, 2016
By Simon Chambers
December 1 is World AIDS Day. This year, PWRDF wants to share with you the story of Nombulelo Nolihle Yose, a staff member at the Keiskamma Trust, one of our partners in South Africa. PWRDF, with funding from Global Affairs Canada, funds a health care program focused on HIV/AIDS through Keiskamma Trust in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Here is her story in her own words:
My name is Nombulelo Nolihle Yose. I came from Dimbaza, South Africa, where I grew up. We are 7 children from my parents (6 sons and 1 daughter). I met a guy in 2003 and he was interested to marry me then we got married on the October 7, 2004. God gave us 2 handsome boys and we have a happy life in our marriage staying in Port Elizabeth.
In January 2006, we moved to stay in Ndlambe location in Peddie. In March I was visiting my mother in King Williams Town to show her my newborn son. While I was there, I received a call from my sister in law. She said I must come back quickly because my lovely husband was quite ill. On the following day I took a taxi and came back where I found my lovely husband very sick. When I spoke to him, he did not look at me he just looked at the wall, then my sister in law came and she told me that my husband is HIV positive and his CD4 count is 83 [CD4 count is a measure of the body’s immune system. A low count is bad. A healthy man generally has a CD4 count of 400-1600, a woman 500-1500]. I was shocked but I decided to take my two sons to get tested too on the next day and we found that I am HIV positive and my oldest son is HIV positive too. Because of the clinic’s counselling, my in laws’ support, and my own family’s support, I did not hurt myself. Even the community supported me a lot because I joined a support group at the same time and I disclosed my status there, so its where the community started to know about my HIV status. My CD4 was 183.
In October 2007, I met with Dr. Baker in the Robert Mbelekane Clinic and she decided to take us (me, my husband and our children) to Keiskamma Trust hospice at Hamburg location so that she can monitor us because my husband was very sick. On February 23, 2008 we started on ARV [anti-retroviral] treatments and we stayed in the hospice because my husband also had TB and he did not want to take all the treatment at the same time because he was vomiting a lot. On March 20, 2008 my lovely husband died in my arms…it was on Thursday. We buried him on March 29.
When I was staying in the hospice we used to have morning prayers every morning and I used to sing during the morning prayers. One day there was a man from Washington, DC who attended the morning prayers. He listened to my voice and when he returned to Washington, DC, he sent an email and asked me and some people to travel to Washington, DC to sing gospel music. After the burial of my husband, I received a call from Keiskamma Trust about the man from Washington, DC who wanted us to sing gospel music. After the communication, I started to come to Keiskamma Trust so that I can join the Keiskamma Gospel Group and we went to Washington, DC and stayed there for 2 weeks singing in different places to fundraise for the hospice. When we returned to South Africa, it was first week of December 2008 and I was employed by Keiskamma Trust as a cleaner.
In 2009 I spoke to Mrs. Zita (a professional nurse at the Keiskamma Trust) and shared with her that I wanted to become a care giver and she gave me that opportunity. I became a care giver and I was responsible to take care of sick patients in hospice until KT stopped admitting patients. Afterwards, I worked as a community health worker. In 2013, I had panic attack which was related to the stress and shock of my husband passing away in 2008 because I did not mourn or grieve after his death. After I was treated for the panic attack, the health manager decided to train me to capture and enter data for the HIV/AIDS and TB Prevention and Care Project. This role including collecting data from the cell phone monitoring system. The community health workers use cell phones when they carry out home based care in the villages and enter all patients’ information in the cell phone and automatically through the internet it is recorded on the project computer. As a result, I became the cell phone monitoring coordinator. I am responsible for analyzing the patient data, cell phone monitoring, distributing staff payslips, buying phone credit for health staff, taking pictures at health events, attending the monthly monitoring meetings for cell phone monitoring, taking management team meeting minutes, and supporting the Orphans and Vulnerable Children camps.
That is my story about my personal life. I want to thank Dr. Baker for being part of my family life. I also thank Keiskamma Trust health staff for being supportive of my family. I thank my family (both my in laws and my own family) for their support in my life.
Once again I thank Keiskamma Trust for giving me this job, because I am a widow and my own family (mother and brothers) depend on me. My beautiful children also depend on me. It means a lot to me to be work for Keiskamma Trust in the health program.
To all people who read this story, I want to say: Get tested and be treated early. There is life with HIV and I am an example of that. I have been living with HIV for 10 years. I am not sick, I am beautiful and I am able to work. Know your status and live a healthy life.