LESOTHO: Mary, "There are days when I feel sick but I have to come to work anyway"

Photo: ALAFA
Maseru, 5 February 2009 (PlusNews) - Mary*, 23, a quality checker at one of the many clothing factories in Maseru, Lesotho's capital, is among the estimated 43 percent of workers in the garment sector who are living with HIV. She is getting free treatment and care for herself and her baby from an initiative called the Apparel Lesotho Alliance to Fight AIDS (ALAFA).

She talked to IRIN/PlusNews about the strain of working long hours for low wages and being the sole breadwinner of her family.

"My parents died in 1994, both in the same year, after long illness - I suspect it was AIDS. My extended family looked after me, but I had to drop out of school when I was 16 and still very interested in learning, because they couldn't afford school fees. I had to find my own ways of survival.

"I've been working at Precious Garments for eight months. I knew my status before I came here. In  2006, I fell sick with TB [tuberculosis] and I was encouraged to test [for HIV].

"My husband is negative. We've been married one year and three months, and we have one child who is three months old. My mother-in-law looks after the baby when I'm at work. My husband isn't working, except for occasional piece-jobs. I have a brother who is also not working - I sometimes extend him a helping hand.

"I was open [about my status] before I married, but my husband doesn't like me disclosing. I felt that talking to people about my status was therapy, but because he supports me I feel I'm doing well. My supervisor knows, but not my co-workers.

"I'm getting ARVs [antiretrovirals] through ALAFA. I was working for another factory before that was also under ALAFA, but we were retrenched. They give me time off to go to an ALAFA doctor every month. I get services for my baby also, until he's one year old, but he's tested negative.

"I'm working here just because of the ALAFA services, but the work is heavy. In the past, the workplace was so friendly - you didn't need to come here at 7 [a.m.], but now it's changing. If you don't come, your salary is cut.

"You don't get any paid sick leave while you're on one-year probation. There are days when I feel sick but I have to come to work anyway, because of the low wages I get. I'm paid 741 maloti a month (US$75). Sometimes I have to walk here and I don't have money for lunch."

*Not her real name


Theme(s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews, HIV/AIDS (PlusNews), PWAs/ASOs - PlusNews,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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