I once weighed 9kg: HIV+ woman tells her story

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WHEN many lose and think that is the end of the world, it takes a strong person to realise it is only the beginning of a new journey.

Such is the story of 32-year-old Miss Samukeliso Ndlovu who has been living with HIV for the past five years. Miss Ndlovu has gone past the stage of fear of discrimination and narrated her journey from the day she discovered that she was HIV positive.

She said she tested HIV positive while living in South Africa in 2011. However, while she accepted her status and started taking medication, in 2013 she decided she was fit and started defaulting.

It was during the default period that she stared death in the face as at one point weighed just nine kilogrammes. Health experts note that it is dangerous for someone on HIV treatment to default along the way as the virus mutates and replicates.

“I came back from South Africa in 2013, by that time I had already defaulted on treatment because I thought my body was now able to do without the ARVs. After defaulting treatment, I used to fall sick regularly until in November 2013 when I was bed ridden,” said Miss Ndlovu.

She said she was often taken to the hospital by her family, but still they were unaware of her status as she was afraid to disclose the information to anyone. Her family learnt of her status while taking her to the doctors, where it was also discovered that she had tuberculosis lymphadenitis.

“In April 2014 I was admitted to Mpilo Hospital, by that time my situation had worsened. I lost weight. I was now weighing 9,5 kilogrammes and my CD4 count had dropped to three. In a day I would drink a total of 22 tablets because I had resumed my treatment. I was now in stage two and was also on TB medication.”

She said even at that moment she still was in denial, she even found it so hard to tell her best friend that she was HIV positive.

It was different to when she was in South Africa where she found it much easier to face her situation as she was staying with an HIV positive friend who she used to go with to collect their ARVs at the clinic. While still in hospital, her best friend’s mother approached her and gave her counselling.

“I don’t want to lie, I was mad at her, I was bitter and full of hurt, but when she left I sat there alone thinking, I am positive, so what? I told myself whatever decision I am going to make from now on I have to think for my daughter and mother. The road was not easy though. I had the support of my family but I still saw people talking and laughing behind my back,” said Miss Ndlovu.

In 2015 Miss Ndlovu’s cousin invited her to a woman’ support group in Cowdray Park where she met a woman called Perseverance Gama who is also living positively. The two became close and after three months they founded their own support group called Home of Compassion which is eight months old now.

“We founded the group to give support to people living with HIV. However, it has lately been joined by orphans and people living with disabilities. We give free counselling to HIV positive people, we also buy medicine for them as many may face challenges in securing medication, we also secure food for them because ARVs need food. We started the group with only a few people, it has however, grown and now we have 180 members. We intend to register the organisation but we are still trying to raise funds for that. We need $150,” said Miss Ndlovu.

Miss Ndlovu said people should be able to accept their statuses.

“The first pill I encourage people living with HIV to take is acceptance, after accepting your status things start flowing. Not everyone is given a second chance, so when you get a second chance you must use it wisely and be grateful to the Lord, I am now a counsellor although I did not go to school for counselling. I am using my own experience to empower people,” said Miss Ndlovu .

She said she is in a relationship with an HIV positive man and her health has improved and she now weighs 89 kilogrammes.