KHOPOTSO: Goitsemang Nnetlane’€™s sister, Dibuseng, is 27 years old. She was diagnosed with HIV just a little over three months ago. In Britstown – a small town some 200 kilometres away from Kimberley – where he has left his family to work in Johannesburg,   Goitsemang knows three of his childhood friends who have died of AIDS related illnesses. As a result, when he got the news that his sister was infected with HIV he panicked.                  

GOITSEMANG: When I got a call from back home to tell me that my sister was diagnosed with HIV, the first thing that came to my mind, I thought that: Oh, Gosh, she was going to die. So, I had to take the necessary steps’€¦ with the little information I had on HIV, to get her medication’€¦ I was actually confused. I didn’€™t know what to do at that time. That’€™s why I decided that I should get in touch with people who have more knowledge on this particular subject, with the intention of buying those particular drugs.

KB: During his frantic search for anti-retrovirals, Goitsemang got to learn that the fact that Dibuseng – one of two of his elder sisters – is HIV positive, does not necessarily mean that she was at death’€™s door.        

GOITSEMANG: The fact that someone tells you that you are now diagnosed with HIV/AIDS ‘€¦ that’€™s a death sentence. That’€™s how I see it. And, until recently I’€™ve seen that as such – that if you have been diagnosed with HIV that means that you are going to die. I didn’€™t distinguish between HIV and AIDS as such, because HIV is just a virus, it doesn’€™t mean that you are going to die, according to the knowledge that I’€™ve read recently. That’€™s why I panicked and I was shocked as well.

KB: This new information has injected some sense of relief into Goitsemang. And he wants to encourage his sister to talk about her infection. Talking, he believes, will help r Dibuseng to deal better with the situation.

 GOITSEMANG: She doesn’€™t want to talk about it. I’€™ve tried to influence her to talk about it. But she will just say, no, she’€™s doing fine. And that’€™s it. So, that actually gives me the impression that she’€™s actually not doing fine. She’€™s actually not getting the necessary support she was supposed to get. Okay, as a family we are supporting her, but I think as well there is a place for counsellors to play a role in terms of relating her story that she’€™s not the only one who’€™s infected with the virus.

KB: Because of the long distance between Johannesburg and Britstown, in the Northern Cape, coupled with Goitsemang’€™s demanding work schedule the two can only communicate by phone. Since Dibuseng’€™s diagnosis with HIV three months ago, he has never been to see her. And he’€™s looking forward to the day.            

GOITSEMANG: I share a very close connection with my sister. I’€™m a mentor to her and she’€™s a mentor to me’€¦ So, that will mean a lot. I’€™ll definitely cry because I didn’€™t expect that she will test HIV positive.

KB: But, really, has Goitsemang come to terms with his sister’€™s diagnosis with HIV?

GOITSEMANG: No, ‘€¦ I have not accepted the fact that she’€™s HIV positive and that perhaps she might not live longer. I don’€™t know the progression in terms of the stages ‘€“ how far the virus has gone’€¦ I’€™m very much angry because I feel that my sister won’€™t be able to achieve the dreams that she wanted in her life.

KB: In next week’€™s ‘€˜Living with AIDS’€™ feature Goitsemang talks to a doctor who will explain to him the progression of HIV, what anti-retrovirals are and when to take them.

E-mail Khoptso Bodibe    

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