KHOPOTSO: There is something about Enea Motaung that reminds me of one of my maternal aunts. Although quiet, they can barely stop once you engage them on a topic that they feel strongly about. Enea is absolutely passionate about issues HIV and AIDS.

This former nurse who has a degree in Community Health Nursing and a Masters in Public Health to her credit, has seen so much pain, suffering and loss of life caused by AIDS. Yet, that hasn’€™t been enough to end her commitment to the cause.


ENEA MOTAUNG: I’€™ve been working as a nurse in public hospitals for the past 15 years before I started this work’€¦ Pain, suffering, death, dying is part of my make-up. It’€™s my profession.


KHOPOTSO: Enea Motaung’€™s profession has truly become one with her personal



ENEA MOTAUNG: The secret is to cry with people when they cry, to die with them when they die, and to be healthy with them when they become healthy’€¦ I am a human being. You cannot keep yourself from those emotions and those feelings.


KHOPOTSO: I understand crying with people when they cry. But I don’€™t understand the part where you die with them when they die?


ENEA MOTAUNG: You do. Part of your soul goes with them. The trick is to come back to the living. For instance, you identify a person who’€™s HIV-positive. Sometimes they can live longer with the disease. And then, when they start getting sick on and off you are there with them. And then, when they get very sick and they die – because you know them – you grieve for them. And when you bury them, your soul certainly goes with them. But you have to come back to those who are living and start all over again. It’€™s in the nature of our work.                                            


KHOPOTSO: No doubt Motaung has died, resurrected, died and then resurrected herself many times. It was while she was away on a scholarship in America in the early 1980s when she saw the first cases of HIV.


ENEA MOTAUNG: The first cases that I saw were’€¦ in the hospitals in California, in San Francisco’€¦ where the first cases of gay men who were HIV-positive and the first blood transfusion cases were diagnosed. That’€™s where my whole interest totally changed’€¦ They had not moved to AIDS. I, really, in America, didn’€™t see a very sick, sick person ‘€“ sick and dying.

It was only when I came back and started working for Township AIDS Project that I started seeing cases.    


KHOPOTSO: Upon her return, she discovered that the knowledge that she had gained from her overseas education had not prepared her well enough to confront even her own fears with HIV – a paranoia that also disrupted her home life.


ENEA MOTAUNG: My fear was if my husband has it, then I will get it’€¦ I came home, we went for testing and we were negative. But then every year I would say, ‘€œno let’€™s go and test’€’€¦ Even if I was already in the field of AIDS training people, I still had my own fears and I went for counselling’€¦ Even in the house I started using Jik a lot, washing my hands often. You know, I started doing things that were out of tune with my nursing career. In nursing, we touch every disease and we scrub. And I started re-scrubbing in my house and doing all the funny things until I was properly counselled.      


KHOPOTSO: In 1990, Enea Motaung was part of a group that included gay AIDS activists Simon Nkoli, and Peter Busse, in forming the Township AIDS Project (TAP). Although both Nkoli and Busse have since died of AIDS-related illnesses, TAP has gone from strength to strength. It is the largest NGO working in AIDS education, awareness and training in Soweto and surrounding areas such as the Vaal.


ENEA MOTAUNG: The role of NGOs, people who were screaming, shouting ‘€“ the likes of Edwin Cameron, Simon, Zackie Achmat, Mark Heywood ‘€“ had we not done anything, it could have been more than 10 million people infected’€¦ I think we have done a lot. TAP was not only involved in education, information. Advocacy was one of our strong issues.


KHOPOTSO: Sixteen years later, Enea Motaung and the Township AIDS Project work in a wide variety of HIV/AIDS issues. Arease include antiretroviral treatment literacy, caring for orphaned and vulnerable children and helping people to access social grants. She also sits on the board of the colossal Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, where she advocates for improved AIDS care. As we finish our chat, I realise how deeply-rooted Motaung is in her identity as an African and how concerned she is that AIDS is decimating her people.


ENEA MOTAUNG: We need to tell an African boy and girl that their seed are very important for generations to come. If Shaka and all those Moshoeshoes never fought, we wouldn’€™t be here today. But we must fight for the next generation. And I think HIV/AIDS is the enemy.