SWAZILAND: Winile Mngometulu:"They are all gone, I am the one survivor"

Photo: James Hall/IRIN
"Will I marry again? I am interested, but not at the moment"
Mbabane, 18 August 2008 (PlusNews) - One of two wives, Winile Mngometulu, 32, was tested for HIV in 2002 after her husband's death. Mngometulu now works for the Swaziland AIDS Support (AIS) organisation, helping HIV-positive people come to terms with their status. She told IRIN/PlusNews of her experience.

"The people I counsel to test for HIV, their experience is much different from what I went through. I thought I had HIV - I was the second wife to my husband. We married the traditional way - many modern Swazi women still marry the traditional way - he got sick, I think from his girlfriend, he died, and his first wife died, and then the girlfriend died. They are all gone, I am the one survivor.

"When my husband was very sick I was living in Big Bend [a sugar growing district in eastern Swaziland]. I went to Good Shepherd Hospital in Siteki [the provincial capital]. The doctor told me to take a blood test to see if I was HIV positive. 'But first you must get counselling,' he said.

"A nurse took me to the room where they give the test. We were walking along the corridor and she said, 'No, you do not want to do this. It is too painful to know if you have HIV. Go home.' This, from a nurse! I went home to Big Bend without testing, I was so confused.

"I got up my courage and I went to a clinic near my home. When I was told that I tested positive for HIV, yes, I was frightened, but for only two minutes. That was how prepared I was.

"My job now is to prepare my children. They are three: Ayabonga, a boy, is the youngest - he is seven; his older brother, Mbongeni, is 14, and my girl, Nojabulisa, is 12. I tell them that I am HIV-positive but this is not the same as having AIDS and many years may go by before I get sick.

"They understand, but a part of them doesn't want to understand. They say, 'You are lying; you are so healthy.' They call their mother a liar because they are afraid of losing me, but I show them my doctor reports, and my CD4 count. When I tested in 2002 my CD4 count was just 154.

"I became positive in my lifestyle and outlook. I wouldn't let anything worry me, I got stress out of my life - if I don't have money I don't stress about it. And I started a healthy diet; I eat lots of vegetables from the garden. So, six months later I went back for a check-up. It was 533. If you are 500 you are in good condition. In June this year, just two months ago, it was 915.

"I treat my children like they are HIV-positive even if they are not. They have lots of nourishing food and they follow good habits. I will take a child for testing if he or she is sick five times in three months, but since 2002, when I learned I was HIV positive, they have been healthy.

"I don't take ARVs, but I counsel people to take them. I just don't like medication. The vegetables I eat really boost my immune system. I will take ARVs if I start to develop symptoms.

"Will I marry again? I am interested, but not at the moment - maybe when the last-born is doing his Standard 5 [Grade 7] at school. But I counsel people that if you need a partner and you're HIV positive you must get one if you desire. If you say you don't want a partner, when in your heart you do, you are discriminating against yourself. HIV doesn't set boundaries - you do.

"I used to tell people, 'I am going to be at the 2010 World Cup; I am going to be in the stands cheering Sihlangu [the Swaziland national soccer team]', but 2010 is only two years away - now I say, 'I am going to be at the 2030 World Cup!'"


Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

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

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