Matieho Mofokeng* (32) from Bohlokong, near Bethlehem in the Free State, says when World AIDS Day approaches, as it does on December 1 every year, she finds herself filled with mixed emotions.
It has become an important milestone for her, after she tested positive for HIV two years ago.
“I have a son who is HIV negative, but now and I am one of the people in the world living with HIV. I would have been dead by now if I wasn’t taking my treatment – my anti-retroviral drugs.”
World AIDS Day testing drive
Mofokeng said she was prompted to test for HIV after falling sick. She did not get well, and started losing weight. And so, on World AIDS Day two years ago, she decided to go and get tested.
“I was so curious to know my status, as I was even pregnant by then,” she said.
“I went through to the clinic and did the test. Just a few minutes later my results were back. They told me I was positive. I was shocked and in denial. I kept asking of how this happened because am still young and my whole future was ahead.”
Treatment saves lives
She left the clinic and went to a local tavern where she drank until she no longer felt any pain. She did not think about her pregnancy.
Mofokeng continued to feel sick, and continued to lose more weight. It took a while for her to realise that she needed to seek help, and so she returned to the clinic where she was started on treatment.
“Now I take it every day. They saved my life, and I am still here,” Mofokeng said.
“I told myself that am going to hold my head up high, and live for my son.”
She is now working and is an agent for people living with HIV and AIDS.
“I always tell people that they should not stop being what they want to be in life just because they are HIV positive. It is not a death sentence,” she explained.
Support through depression
“The first person I told about my status was my grandmother, who didn’t understand. But after a bit of time she was there for me, and supported me. Now I am happy and I have a boyfriend who understands and supports me, as my family does,” said Mofokeng.
Support group agent Meisie Moduli says people often go into denial after hearing that they are HIV positive.
“And that is what is killing them, because they end up depressed and stressed. We always try and speak to them and encourage them, letting them know that the first step towards dealing with things is acceptance.” – Health-e News.
An edited version of this story was published in The Star