Called to care. Living with AIDS

Systemic racism leaves people of colour exposed to global health threats


Duration: 3min 20sec


KHOPOTSO: Caiphas Mohale appears to be in his mid-thirties, he’s a passionate speaker and a snappy, smart dresser. He has the dedication of a teacher and the bearing of an office manager. But, he does neither for a living. Instead, he spends his days caring for the sick. To meet him, I visited his parish, in Duiwelskloof, some kilometres away from Tzaneen, in Limpopo, where the local priest, Father Tom, was hosting a retreat for home-based care workers. He offered some practical example, based on the Scriptures.

FATHER TOM: I have suffered some terrible disaster. I’ve been diagnosed with something. And my question is: ‘Why did it happen to me?’

What do you say to me as a friend? We’re talking about Job and the friends of Job, and the friends of Job were trying to console him, but it seems they got it wrong. What would you say to me?

KHOPOTSO: A fellow believer, Sister Sally Duigan, tries to respond.

SISTER SALLY: Uuuurgh It’s a difficult one, but it’s very real.

KHOPOTSO: And the Old Testament story about Job goes on to say that his friends blamed him for his affliction, suggesting that it was a justifiable punishment for something he must have done. Today, many people with HIV and AIDS are discovering that they are modern-day Jobs. And this is a dangerous fallacy that Caiphas Mohale, a staunch Catholic, feels needs to be addressed.

CAIPHAS MOHALE: We’ve said to ourselves that we must know them. We must identify them and say these are the people, so that when you pray, I mention your name because I’ll be saying: God, this is Tebogo who’s sick. Then that will be something else. But if you just sit in the church and say we are praying for the people who are sick, who are those? So, we said in order to answer this question we just have to go out and really help our people because it’s our brothers and sisters, it’s our mothers, it’s our fathers. So, why sit back and start pointing fingers?

KHOPOTSO: In his rounds as a care-giver in Bolobedu, Caiphas meets different people with various diseases and needs.

CAIPHAS MOHALE: With the TB patients, they are many so when we go around we even encourage them to take medication. Sometimes, you find that (with) the medication you (have to) eat first. What do you eat if you are poor? So, when we come we always give them something so that with the drugs they are given from the clinic, they can use them. Really, the TB people, they are really many, not forgetting that TB is something that is related with AIDS. But with the HIV positive people, really, you know, to come out is really still difficult. But we’ve started a group in Kgapane Hospital. They come together and share their experiences. They see that I’m not alone. There are people who are really like me. The number now is 37 those (whom) we have identified.

KHOPOTSO: But, is this something that Caiphas really wants to do  and without payment?

CAIPHAS MOHALE: Really, for me, it was a calling because these people were really left out, sidelined. And when you are sick you need someone to come and see you. If you are helped, why don’t you go and help other people? We are called to action because of this pandemic.

KHOPOTSO: Caiphas Mohale is a rare find in a domain that is left almost exclusively to women, who are traditionally expected to assume the role of nurturers and carers. Mohale’s example, and the presence of a few other male care-givers at the Duiwelskloof Catholic parish retreat, could be a signal that times are changing.



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