Thabisile’s story: HIV challenges in rural Swaziland
Bongani was 3 months old when he died. His mother got pregnant again and a daughter was born. Gugu died six months later. After losing two of her children without any real explanation, Thabisile, decided to take an HIV test.
Thabisile, 37, discovered she had HIV in 2007. She’s now on antiretrovirals (ARVs) to keep the virus under control. Her first born son, Behokohuhle, was tested when his siblings died and he started to get treatment, but the family didn’t have enough money to continue his medication. He died at the age of six in 2008. Thabisile’s husband died the same year.
Thabisile now lives with her 12-year-old daughter in the depths of rural Swaziland. Her nearest neighbour is one kilometre away.
To swallow her HIV medication, Thabisile needs water. There is a spring about two hundred metres from her home but the water source is unreliable. When it dries up she has to walk a few kilometres to the nearest shop to buy water.
Regular nutritious meals are also essential. Some experts say that ARVs boost appetite by 30 percent. The only food Thabisile has in her garden is a large cane bin of dried up corn cobs. She uses the corn cobs to make a sour porridge which she eats once a day. As well as HIV, she has tuberculosis and often coughs and is out of breath.
Thabisile has to pick up her ARVs from the hospital 45 km away once a month. The journey to and from the hospital takes a whole day. She has to walk around seven kilometres down an uneven dirt track, then she must catch a bus which costs 30 rand (2.60 euro).
She takes in washing sometimes so she can afford the bus fare. Some months she doesn’t make the money to go to the hospital and pick up her medicine. She says she picked up her ARVs last month because her brother was in hospital with an AIDS-related illness. He has since died.
Thabisile says that she would like to have more food to eat because it’s hard to get where she lives. She would also like to fix up her home. She says it’s falling apart, but she isn’t strong enough to repair it.