KHOPOTSO: Mme Dorothy Mosaka is no ordinary elderly woman. Her apparent good health and energy combined with her witty and charming personality can belie her age, which she makes a point to emphasise.

DOROTHY MOSAKA: I’€™m 70. Seven-O.

KHOPOTSO: She’€™s just as proud of her long career as a nurse when I ask her for how long she had been in the profession.

DOROTHY MOSAKA: For the rest of my life’€¦ You know, I started training in 1956, before you were born.

KHOPOTSO: Her career took her to a number of clinics in the south western townships of Johannesburg, Soweto, before she retired in the late 1990s. But, her reputation as a credible nurse was not about to allow her full retirement. The Township AIDS Project, which focuses on AIDS awareness and prevention, asked her to co-ordinate a new non-clinic based HIV voluntary counselling and testing site the group was setting up. Mme Dorothy took up the offer and the site was established in 2002 in Meadowlands, Soweto. It was shortly after mid-day in wet Johannesburg, when I met her at the centre and was greeted by lack of activity.

DOROTHY MOSAKA: I regard it as our most quiet Monday because so far, I have tested six clients’€¦ not a lot of people come in the afternoon.

KHOPOTSO: On average, per day, how many people do you see?    

DOROTHY MOSAKA: Most of the time by this time I would have tested about 12. On average, I would say I’€™m seeing about 15 clients per day.                            

KHOPOTSO: Of that particular figure are you able to make assessments as to what proportion of that number is HIV positive?

DOROTHY MOSAKA: I would say out of every 8 people 1 person tests positive.

KHOPOTSO: Mme Dorothy reckons that this is a huge number.

DOROTHY MOSAKA: What I can say is that with all the information we actually gave the community and the youth, in particular, I do not see the decline in the HIV infection.

I see it is increasing. I am worried as to what are we doing? We seem not to be getting anywhere.

KHOPOTSO: The Meadowlands centre is on a busy taxi route next to the township’€™s shopping centre and is quite visible for all to see. The Township AIDS Project says since since it was formed in 2002, just over 1000 people have tested for HIV. By March last year, 850 000 people had tested for HIV at government facilities nationally, yet 5 million people are estimated to be HIV positive. So it seems that few people are prepared to take an HIV test, either at government facilities or NGO centres. But, Mme Dorothy disagrees.

DOROTHY MOSAKA: Around here we are making an impact. And I must tell you that not only do we get people from Meadowlands coming to our centre’€¦ We get young people’€¦ We have people coming at the age of 70. They wanted to come because they think that the partners, perhaps, the old men are cheating on them.

KHOPOTSO: How many have tested since the beginning of the year?

DOROTHY MOSAKA: This year’€¦ 151 ‘€“ from January 10th to February 06th.

KHOPOTSO: For Mme Dorothy taking time away from enjoying her old age to become a Voluntary Counselling and Testing co-ordinator was not difficult. The impact AIDS has had on her own family was sufficient inspiration.                                                      

DOROTHY MOSAKA: I had my eldest brother’€™s son ‘€“ the only son ‘€“ a very responsible man who got infected. The wife was the first who was infected and then, he followed. They both died leaving small children’€¦ Then, thereafter I had several of my family members who followed. I had first-hand experience. I saw them suffering. I saw them declining in health, becoming ill, developing all sorts of complications from HIV.

KHOPOTSO: In her job this soccer-loving mother of two daughters and grand-mother of two other girls continues to witness these experiences. Yet, she’€™s not yet keen to call it quits.      

DOROTHY MOSAKA: I think I will retire, but when I retire I think my heart will still remain because HIV and AIDS is my passion.  

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