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.
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