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SWAZILAND: Thembi, "Even the children, they call a person with AIDS a `rotten potato’"

"I am worried that I messed up my treatment"
SIPOFANENI, 5 January 2011 (PlusNews) - Thembi (last name withheld) is a 33-year-old HIV-positive mother of three who has lived in rural poverty all her life. She lives alone with her children amid the low green hills of Swaziland's central Manzini region, while her husband is away working in South Africa.

"I am worried that I messed up my treatment. I have missed clinic appointments. Sometimes when this happens I run out of medications. I started ARVs almost two years ago, but it is off and on. I am alone most of the time with my three small children. I have no money for bus fare and the clinic is too far to walk. Also I am very tired most days. If I could follow my treatment better maybe I would have more energy, but I do the best I can.

“The children have to be looked after. The neighbour's two-year-old girl drowned in a bucket of water. She fell in head first. It was only five minutes, but when her mother returned she was dead. Something like that scares me more than missing my medications.

“I have not told my husband I am HIV positive. I got it from him, so I know he must have HIV but he hasn't tested. They tested me when I was pregnant with my youngest. She is now two years old. I am silent because he chased away his first wife when he learned she was HIV-positive. I am [his] second wife. The first [wife] fell ill and when she told him she was HIV [-positive] he sent her to her parents’ homestead. He blamed her. He did not test because maybe he was scared but I tested, because of her.

“No one knows I have HIV but the clinic... No one must know I have HIV. They can blame me and chase me away. Even the children, they call a person with AIDS a `rotten potato’. People shun you. People die of AIDS and no one will say this is the reason because then some relatives will refuse you to be buried in the family graveyard.

“When I go to the clinic I take my children. I tell my in-laws we are going for their check-ups. I hide my ARVs where no one will find them. I feel very alone doing this. But I don’t want to die. I love my children so much. I love my husband even though he can be ignorant and cruel. But he is better off with me in his life than with me dead.

“We have nothing, no electricity, and the water comes from far away. I like to sing. We sing and pray together as a family. My children like to hear me sing. They have their favourite songs they ask me to sing. I will stay alive so I can sing for them a long time."


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

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

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DFID - UK Department for International Development
Irish Aid
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation - SDC