At pains to talkLiving with AIDS Programme 141

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KHOPOTSO: I first met Bonga, at a meeting in Braamfontein, Johannesburg where she came looking for information about rape survivors. Instead of me asking her for an interview she quietly came to me after the meeting and offered to tell her story. She was also quite clear about what she wanted to talk about: the pain and difficulty of not being able to tell her parents back home in the Eastern Cape that she is HIV positive. Here she talks about her fears.

BONGA: It’€™s the rejection at first. Maybe they will reject me. Maybe I’€™m not going to be the same daughter like usual. Maybe they will say that I bring a disaster to the family. Maybe they won’€™t see how I got it.’€

KHOPOTSO: You realised that you’€™re positive after the rape. And your parents got to know about the rape. You actually told them about it’€¦

BONGA: Yes, I told my parents about the rape. My mother is the person that took it seriously. After that my mother was so sick and was blaming me: First of all, what caused you to go to Johannesburg’€¦? I said to them I went to Johannesburg to get a job. I finished my studies. What is the reason for me to stay in Port Elizabeth just to fold hands and watch you suffering and working until the age that you are. I didn’€™t plan for this.’€

KHOPOTSO: You went past one hurdle, telling them of the rape. But then, you just couldn’€™t get to telling them about the HIV?

BONGA: First of all, I blame myself’€¦ But after the words ‘€¦’€œWhat were you doing there? At least you can stay even here. We were staying like this for a long time now.’€ So, I thought if I can tell them about HIV at that time they won’€™t even understand’€¦ The following year I tried to reach their hearts’€¦ I tried and tried and tried, up until now. I want them to know.’€

KHOPOTSO: What difference would it make if you were able to tell your parents that you are infected with HIV? Tell us about the benefits of that?

BONGA: As I grew up things used to happen to me and my parents used to support me. They would sit down with me and tell me that we’€™ve been there, we’€™ve been young like you, we understand, don’€™t run away from us’€¦ But now with HIV/AIDS they don’€™t even get that time of knowing it. The only thing that I can hear there is: as you get it you have to die where you got it. You mustn’€™t come home with that thing. You bring an embarrassment to the family. What is the community going to say about this thing? We are not ready for you to die like that here’€¦ I wish that you will know that it’€™s me. I’€™m not sick. I’€™m still your daughter. It can heal me a lot. I know that for you to have parents means a lot. Parents will be there for you no matter what.’€        

KHOPOTSO: How do you hope this interview will help you?

BONGA: Oh, I wish and I believe that this interview is going to help me. I’€™m begging the parents. We can’€™t fight this thing alone’€¦ If just one parent can understand, not just saying that I accept. OK, it’€™s fine that you accept, but your reaction does not show that you accept’€¦There is more that you have to do than to say that I accept. It’€™s the understanding with three things ‘€“ parents, your child and HIV – before it goes to an AIDS stage’€¦ If HIV is inside the house it’€™s not going outside. It’€™s going to be there. It can stay there for ten or 15 years without turning to be AIDS’€¦ Maybe my elder brothers can die because of accidents, because of headaches, and me as I’€™m HIV positive I can still live longer and I’€™m the one who can take care of you. I’€™m the one that can get a job before the ones that you think are well. So, if these three things can work together I think that there won’€™t be something like AIDS in South Africa.’€                                                      

KHOPOTSO: Every year in December you go to the Eastern Cape. You will be going back home for the fourth time in December this year. You’€™re having your HIV. Your wish is to be able to look them in the eye and disclose your status. Are you confident that that’€™s going to happen?

BONGA: Ei, I don’€™t know’€¦ Each time, you see, if I come back from home in January I get that thing that by this December, I will tell them. The questions that I usually ask them give answers that lead me to not to disclose to them. So, I only give them information, educate them and refer to myself as another person that I know in Jo’€™burg that they are like this, and this and that.’€

E-mail Khopotso Bodibe

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