An activist’€™s wish Living with AIDS #177

Duration: 4min 38 sec


KHOPOTSO: She is tall, dark and beautiful. Dressed in a pant-suit, with her black-grey   mane of dreadlocks tied back away from her ebony face, she cuts a figure of a foreign diplomat, not an AIDS activist. But Nonhlanhla Kubheka’€™s story resonates with the experience of many South African women. She’€™s a single mother, unemployed, has no home of her own and she’€™s one of those who are HIV positive. In fact, she’€™s been positive for eleven years. As a Treatment Action Campaign volunteer she participated in a ‘€˜civil disobedience campaign’€™ last March, risking arrest for her beliefs. The campaign was to ask government to do two things: to make an irreversible and unequivocal commitment to a public sector antiretroviral programme; and that it should return to much-disputed negotiations at NEDLAC and make a commitment to signing a Framework Agreement with business, labour and community on a National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Plan.

NONHLANHLA: There is an agreement with the government. It’€™s just that the government takes things very slowly, or it’€™s ignorant. It went to take part in talks with NEDLAC and did not finish the talks. And we know that in the government things go very slowly. They need to go to this and this and this.

KHOPOTSO: In November 2003, Cabinet approved a government-investigated plan to make antiretrovirals available in the public health sector. This had already begun in the Western Cape two years ago and since April this year, new treatment sites have opened, beginning in Gauteng. Nonhlanhla Kubheka believes the TAC’€™s actions helped bring about the change. Personally, she says, being a member of the TAC has also borne benefits for her health.

NONHLANHLA: It helps me a lot because I know that I have to get ARV’€™s if I need to get ARV’€™s, as (I’€™m) now on the process that I have to check my CD 4 count’€¦ If my CD 4 count allows me to get treatment I’€™m going to start treatment. So, that makes me to prolong my life because now I know that when I get sick or I have to start ARV’€™s I will get it because they are there in the hospitals, they are there in the clinic. So, a person living with HIV to be TAC it makes my mind to be open’€¦                                      

KHOPOTSO: At her last CD 4 count in October last year Nonhlanhla registered 300

T-cells. She thinks her health has declined since then and if her next CD 4 test is below the 200 mark, she might just be one of the 53 000 people the Health Department estimates are in need of treatment now. She’€™s elated that she will have access to medication and care to prolong her life.

NONHLANHLA: I always tell my friends. The other one said: ‘€˜Aah, Nhlanhla, do you think (by) 2010 we’€™ll be here?’€™ I said: ‘€˜Aah, aah, you? Me? I will be here’€¦ So you see, things are (be)coming bright now’€¦ People are talking about 2010 bid. They’€™re going to be rich. And then you, you are HIV positive. You say ‘€˜Oh, where will I be at that time?’€™ I always tell them ukuthi (that) ‘€˜I will be here’€¦ And I will be Nonhlanhla as I am Nonhlanhla.’€™

 KHOPOTSO: At the same time, she’€™s concerned at what she calls the ‘€˜slow pace’€™ of government’€™s implementation of the Treatment Plan.                      

NONHLANHLA: People are so many that are HIV positive that now want treatment. They didn’€™t want to come out before. They didn’€™t want to be seen that they are HIV positive. But because the treatment is there, lots of people (are) going to because they want the treatment. We expect(ed) that. I don’€™t know about the government side because, really, it’€™s supposed to roll out in all these hospitals not to go in quarter, quarter, this side, this side’€¦

KHOPOTSO: A rank and file member of the TAC, Kubheka has one wish. And that is for her organisation and the Health Department to hold hands, stop the personality clashes and work together to provide treatment to those who need it.    

NONHLANHLA: I don’€™t understand because’€¦ we said it even before that we didn’€™t even fight with the government. We want(ed) government to be quick and fast and see the need for ARV’€™s for people. We were not even fight(ing) with the government because it’€™s our government as members of the TAC. What we see now is, I think those people on the side of government are feeling that if ‘€˜I work with TAC, whereas TAC was fighting against us, it’€™s something that is abnormal.’€™ There’€™s that slowness that they don’€™t want to involve us. They want to do things alone. And they want to start things from scratch, whereas they had to call us and say ‘€˜guys, this thing’€¦ what are we going to do with it, because you already have done it before?’€™ Just do it now so that we can help our community.

E-mail Khopotso Bodibe


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