What is probably unique is that local traditional healers and counsellors from the community health care centre joined hands together in this week long door-to-door campaign.
In the seering heat of summer, the men and women, grouped in pairs or threes each comprising of both traditional healers and professional counsellors walked every street of Soweto’s Zola township sharing what they know about HIV and AIDS and what help there is available. Each house visit unearthed a different story. Ma-Msomi lost her eldest daughter to AIDS. Her younger daughter also has AIDS and so does the daughter’s daughter, a 24-year old young woman.
‘My 24 year old grand daughter was sexually abused by her step-father. That’s how she got to have HIV. The step-father has since passed away. But not before I sued him. However, he died before the case could be heard’, Ma-Msomi told the group of three, speaking in isiZulu.
She added that her daughter who is also HIV-positive and is the mother of the 24 year old young woman has disappeared. She has been missing for four months and has left behind five children who are all being cared for by her. Just a day before, she had called a local tabloid to write a story appealing to her daughter to return home to her kids, the youngest of whom is 14.
Ma-Msomi’s was just too heavy to handle through the short session. But they committed to come back the next day.
‘It’s a deep seated problem. There needs to be a lot of counselling. What I think is needed is to sit down with that old lady and just ask some probing questions, said Boyce Mgcina, a traditional healer.
‘The old lady herself needs proper counselling by a professional counsellor so that all these questions that we have and whatever she is bottling up she can cough it out because if you’re affected by HIV you don’t know what to do next and how to deal with it. The first thing that we need to do is to counsel the old lady, then the children will follow after that’, added Phindile Mkhabela, a professional counsellor working at the local Zola Community Health Care Centre.