My children gave me back my life…
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.
I became involved with human rights advocacy after losing my child to AIDS in 2000. My newly born baby was desperately ill with several diseases and I agreed that the baby be tested for HIV. The test was positive and I had to face the terrible reality that I infected my baby.
My baby died nine months later because there was no treatment available back then, and the baby’s father, who had also tested HIV positive, committed suicide eight months after my baby’s death. I had to deal with the guilt of infecting my baby, the sorrow of my great loss, the fear of having been given the ‘death sentence’, as well as the fact that I was a single mother to a then seven year-old son (not HIV positive) who needed me more than ever.
I knew I wouldn’t be there for my son without the availability of ARVs. This was a challenging and sad realisation, but it was during this time of conflicting emotions that I discovered my purpose in life – to fight back and save as many babies as possible by sharing my story with as many people as possible. But first I had to find healing for my soul and gain inner strength before I could face life outside. I was able to find courage and healing by attending a support group, sharing and motivating others, then moving to the forefront in the war against HIV, demanding the rollout of ARVs.
As a member of the TAC, I became involved in rolling out HIV/AIDS Programme Project Management and I provided a personalised testimony for maximum results. (This testimony included how I also had to cope with disseminated TB, diagnosed in 2006.) I was immediately put on HAART to deal with the complications of starting ART, but I survived them. My point is, it was white lies that people in Africa couldn’t comply with taking ARVs, and that they were toxic; it was just side-effects, and I survived them.
I always say, my children gave me my life back. Look at it this way: had it not been for my daughter who passed away, I wouldn’t have had the will to fight for justice; had it not been for my son that needed me healthy, I wouldn’t have fought the good fight. In December 2002, I gave birth to another healthy boy. He will be turning 12 at the end of this year. By the way, my first son is now studying at UWC, doing psychology [smiling]. I remember being anxious and asking the doctor how long I had and he told me ‘two years max’. That was in 1999, I was 27 years’ old. In five years’ time, I will be 47… Indeed my children gave me back my life.