LESOTHO: Mojalefa Lee, "Everything is condemning us"
Lee surveys his parched vegetable garden
Mohale's Hoek, 3 February 2009 (IRIN) - Mojalefa Lee, 59, worked on South Africa's gold mines for 18 years before returning to his home in Mohale's Hoek in southwestern Lesotho. After a bout of tuberculosis in 2003, he tested positive for HIV.
He talked to IRIN/PlusNews about the difficulty of staying healthy when he can no longer afford to buy nutritious foods.
"I stopped working in 2002 when my contract ended; I haven't worked since then. In 2003 I got TB [tuberculosis]. I completed the treatment but I still had a rash and they advised me to go for [HIV] testing.
"My wife didn't understand how [HIV] came to me; she left. I don't know what happened to her. One of my daughters is attending school in Mafeteng [a neighbouring district]; the other is staying with me. My son died when he was 14; we don't know exactly why.
"I started on ARVs [antiretroviral drugs] when they became available from the government, but I can't afford to buy different food, like fruits and vegetables.
"Before, we used to get some food support from the World Food Programme but it ended last year . We have a small garden, but it's too dry. They ration the water during the dry season so I can't water the plants and they end up dying. My CD4 count [a test of immune system strength] is coming down.
"I'm not getting any help from family – it's not because they're stingy, but because they also have problems. Food, water, electricity – everything has gone up; everything is condemning us.
"On every job I did in the mines there was a lot of dust. I started as a clerk but the salaries were very good underground [so I moved]. We were always drilling, so it might be that [which caused the TB].
"This problem of ARVs - we go for check-ups every month, but some aren't attending because transport is expensive. People end up as defaulters because of not getting enough food.
"We realise [it] after they die, when we go to the house to prepare for the funeral and then we find the tablets - that's the problem with not getting support. Positive people need support, but there's no such thing here."
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]