OurHealth Women's Health

“My family cycle ends with me”

test and treat
Written by Cynthia Maseko

Mpumalanga – The brave mother of an 11-year old daughter has undertaken to ensure that, despite their harrowing experiences and difficulties, her child will not suffer as much as she has.

Determined to see an end to the ongoing cycle of addiction, sex work, rape, HIV, abuse and extreme poverty, Nelisiwe Masinga believes telling her story will both help her stick to her resolution and encourage other suffering mothers to do the same.

Masinga, who gave birth 11 years ago, has had a very hard life. She has no idea who the father of her child is, nor does she know who her own father is.

“My biggest problem is how my child was conceived and the fact that I have never dealt with some issues,” she said.

Contracted HIV

“When I was nine years old my late mother introduced me to alcohol and we started going to shebeens. To support our addictions my mother went as far as trading her body just so that we can have alcohol. Years later I began to trade my body as well and at age 13 in 2007 I became pregnant from being raped by unknown dunkards while I was intoxicated. I also contracted HIV. That same year while I needed my mother the most, she fell ill. She was hospitalised for weeks and later died. Because we were so poor she was buried by the government hospital,” Masinga said.

“My mother was a South African, but died without an ID book and left me in the world without a birth certificate. Life after that became unbearable, and because I don’t have an ID I could not get one for my own daughter. All the doors I knocked on for help were closed in my face.”

Masinga said because she is undocumented she is unable to find employment.

“I am cleaning people’s houses and washing their cloths just to support my daughter and me. Sometimes I do what I know the best, trading my body for money, food and alcohol. I have tolerated all kind of abuse so that I can put food on the table because my daughter has to eat,” she said.

But still there are times they go to bed without food.

Defaulting on treatment

“With our HIV status we are vulnerable to illness because we are not eating healthy food. My daughther has TB of the lungs and it has come back twice. There were days when few years ago she has TB of the lungs; the TB came back twice because they were days when I did not give her treatment because we didn’t have food,” Masinga said.

“Even though I know I am not supposed to drink alcohol because of my HIV status, but it helps me to stop thinking about my past experiences. But recently I have been able to stop for my daughter and I have stopped defaulting on treatment. We are now on the right path.

Things are improving day by day. I refuse to let my daughter experience what I have growing up as an orphan. That’s why I am saying ‘My family cycle ends with me’, because no one can change our story but me.

It is unfortunate that I have suffered a lot growing up experienced too much too soon. But the reason for telling my story is the process of healing and helping other women who are in a similar situation as mine.”

About the author

Cynthia Maseko

Cynthia Maseko joined OurHealth in 2013 as a citizen journalist working in Mpumalanga. She is passionate about women’s health issues and joined Treatment Action Campaign branch as a volunteer after completing her matric. As an activist she has been involved with Equal Treatment, Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and also with Marie Stopes Clinic’s project Blue Star dealing with the promotion of safe abortions and HIV education.