’A bloody miracle’
A number of people have over the years played a role in the development of the TAC and our battle for antiretrovirals. There are too many to mention. In the following pages a small group of people who played a role in one way or another and represent various constituencies, share their recollections of the past and their dreams for the future.
When former Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa announced on 1 April some 10 years ago that Gauteng was going to start rolling out ARVs, my first thoughts were, ‘Finally, a bloody miracle and, someone is taking the bull by the horns and not waiting for national government to assemble all their accredited ARV clinics’. Then the date struck me and my thoughts ran to, ‘God, I hope this is not a sick April Fool’s Day joke.’ Thankfully it wasn’t. And so the miracles began with life becoming the alternative to death.
Sadly, it was way, way too late for so many, including Nkosi, who I know would have more than celebrated the good news. But I thought at the time that hopefully the genocide was now over, with a semblance of normality returning to family life, and hopefully devastating ‘losses’ would become the exception rather than the norm.
But how and what to do with a population of broken and parentless children who seemed to have been ignored from day one of the onslaught of the HIV/AIDS pandemic; how do we heal the wounds of either being infected from birth or suffering more losses than is acceptable in the norm, ‘losing’ their entire family, by the age of eight or even younger?
While many of us may feel relief looking back 10 years, relief is not an emotion felt by those now in their mid-teens, who were infected from birth. Their anger and pain and disappointment has not been addressed or adequately acknowledged. Defiance and lethargy with regard to sticking to their treatment regimes has become the order of the day. Their emotions – anger, fear, and embarrassment – are understandable, but are sadly currently directing it at their own wellbeing and not the powers that denied and delayed treatment for so many years.