Thabang Malekutu, 18, is raising three younger siblings following his mother’s recent death due to AIDS-related illnesses after she defaulted on treatment.
Sophy Malekutu was just 42 years old when she died in late May. She leaves behind Thabang and three other children between the ages of 9 and 15 years.
Sometime late last year, Sophy stopped taking her antiretroviral (ARV) medication.
In April, her health took a turn for the worse. She could no longer eat, get out of bed or walk without assistance.
It was then Thabang reached out to family and local community health workers.
“She was very sick and I asked my uncle and Refentse (Drop in Centre) community health workers to take her to Jubilee District Hospital where they told us that my mother has defaulted on her treatment,’ said Thabang, who harbours feeling of guilt about his mother’s passing.
“I didn’t realise the dangers of HIV because our mother used to try her best to care for us although she was on ARVs,’ he told OurHealth. “Although I questioned myself about her defaulting, I didn’t pressurise her into taking (her treatment) because she looked fine and I never had much information on ARVs.”[quote float=”right”]’While she was alive and sick, I couldn’t see how valuable she was but now I can feel the pain of living without a mother”
Community Health Worker Nomhle Matshaya said she and colleagues tried to get Sophy back onto treatment but she passed away before she could recover.
Thabang says he never really appreciated what it was to have a mother until he lost his.
“While she was alive and sick, I couldn’t see how valuable she was but now I can feel the pain of living without a mother,” he said.
It is a pain that stretches down to Sophy’s 9-year-old daughter, who says community health workers have helped teach her how to cook following her mum’s death.
“With my mother around, I didn’t cook,” said the teenager. “After her death, I and my younger sister have had to learn to cook the hard way.”
Still grieving, Thabang says his mother’s death has changed the way he thinks about future relationships.
“I also don’t think I will ever think of sleeping with anyone after what I saw from my sick mother,” he added.
Matshaya said she and other community health care workers – together with the children’s uncle – will continue to support the children with groceries until they can secure child grants.