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Why sharing HIV treatment is dangerous

Medication shortages at Gauteng facilities
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Written by Cynthia Maseko

MPUMALANGA – When Philip Madonsela’s HIV positive partner Duduzile Gumede defaulted on her antiretroviral treatment he was surprised to discover that she stopped collecting her medication from the clinic because she was taking their daughter’s treatment.

“At first I couldn’t understand why she was losing weight and getting sicker. Our daughter is also on ARTs. When I asked Duduzile why she was so sick, she kept on telling me that it was the side effects of the ARTs. Then recently she suffered a stroke and I had to rush her to Rob Ferrari Hospital. That’s when I finally learned the truth – that she was not taking her own ARTs, but was taking the medication for her daughter.”

Gumede explained: “With my working hours and not having time to go to the clinic, I honestly didn’t think that sharing my daughter’s ART was wrong, or that it would harm me because we are both living with the HIV virus. But when I noticed the changes, that I was getting sick, I was afraid to go back to the clinic for further help because I knew I defaulted.”

I now understand that I should not have stopped collecting my ART or taking my child’s treatment because It was a stupid thing to do.

She did not foresee what could happen – that would get sick, suffer a stroke and come close to death.

Daughter’s treatment

Gumede’s sister Phumzile Gumede said “As she lied to her partner, our whole family was lied to in the same way. She would pretend to collect her ARTs every month. To be honest, we are more worried about the innocent child because if Duduzile was taking her ARTs, what was going to happen to her? I asked my sister to show me her ART pack but to my surprise, she went inside her house and come out with her daughter’s ARTs. I shouted at her and asked ‘Why do you want to die?’ and she didn’t reply.”

Gumede now sees her stroke as a warning and a second chance to do things right.

“We all deserve to live longer. It may seem impossible, but with the help and support of community workers from Simunye HBC (home based care), I will not default again. I now understand that I should not have stopped collecting my ART or taking my child’s treatment because It was a stupid thing to do.”

Zodwa Mbele from Simunye HBC said “The are many similar cases where people think sharing their treatment is okay because they think their HIV virus is the same. My advice to all people living with HIV is to never share their ARTs. It is better to ask for help and advice from health workers than to be sorry later.”

An edited version of this story appeared on Health24.

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.