Mnyageni says her brother, Lefa,* was diagnosed with HIV in 2010. He had adhered faithfully to his antiretroviral (ARVs) medication until he defaulted on treatment in May 2013.** She blames treatment fatigue for her brother’s decision to discontinue treatment.
“My brother indicated that he was tired of using the same treatment for a long time without getting healed,” says Mnyageni who – with her sister, Rose – began to arm herself with information on HIV in hopes of persuading her brother to re-start treatment.
He died on 11 February 2014 – a day most South Africans remember as the day Former President Nelson Mandela walked out of the Drakenstein Correctional Centre.
Mnyageni says the loss of her brother sparked a passion for health care in her.
“His death made me realise that I must do something to save the lives of HIV-positive people in the area,” adds Mnyageni, who obtained a diploma in HIV counselling through the Thuto Bophelo Nursing College. She is now a volunteer health worker at the Boekenhout Clinic in Mabopane about 40 kms north of Pretoria.
“I believe if I had the same counselling skills (then as I have now), maybe my brother would have known better … and could still be alive,” she adds.
More than 10 years after the introduction of free ARVs in South Africa, Soshanguve doctor Berea Matshivha says a lack of treatment literacy among ARV patients is still a barrier to good adherence.
**This story originally said that Lefa defaulted on ARVs in May 2014. The date should have read May 2013. We apologise for this error.