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Realities of HIV/AIDS

Written by Sue Peeples
April 13, 2006

Sue Peeples - South Africa

In the areas where I have worked so far, there are 3 main languages...Khosa, Africaans (combination of Dutch and some native languages) and English.

The home where I am staying with Harry and Lynette Kema they generally speak Africaans but know how to speak English. They are hoping since I am here that their children will get more used to speaking in English. The oldest attends boarding school about 2 ½ hours drive from here (12 yo) and she comes home on the weekends. I went with Harry to pick her up on Friday and it was a beautiful trip. The countryside is wide and open with mountains all around and it is green now. At times Harry says it is brown and dry. It still reminds me quite a bit of the Grande Ronde Valley.

The second child (Joanne) had a stroke when she was in utero and had limited use of her right hand. She can walk but her gait is off. She is a real nice kid but has dyslexia and a few problems in school. The next child (Rebecca) is 8years old She went last year to 1st grade at an Africaans school where I understand they teased her because her father is white and her mother is black (Khosa tribe). Emmanuel is 3 ½years old and goes to "crèche"(preschool). Lastly is John who will be 1 yo on Thur. It keeps the household hopping...a little more noise and activity than I am used to but it is OK. Little Emmanuel calls me Auntie Zoo.

Harry came here as a young man from the Netherlands and has stayed for 14 years. He said that the Africaans language wasn't too difficult since it is close to Dutch. He and Lynette speak English very well and there is no problem speaking with them. The people that I have been working with in the Home visiting project mostly speak Khosa and most understand English, However, the clients that we see in their homes speak mostly Khosa and don't really understand English. They are in the process of trying to find new patients since their participation in the project is totally voluntary. I guess quite a few organizations come around and say that they will help but don't really follow up so the people are understandably hesitant. There is also a stigma attached to people who have HIV/AIDS and many of the clients are positive. Many of the people never even tell their partners or spouses and their HIV status is only known when they die. There is access to ARV (Antiretroviral therapy) which makes their lives more comfortable and long but they have to go to a gov't clinic to be diagnosed and get the meds. Many are not willing to do that because then all of their neighbors will know. The project is called Intlizyo (Heart) Project and it gets its funding from the Netherlands, the US and other foreign donors. The people working for the project have a very difficult job and one of the ways to get the people to agree to have them come to visit and help coordinate their care is that the project advertises that they help with all kinds of health problems (esp chronic where the person is at home). Thus they hope to avoid the stigma for the people being served. The Home Care Workers are trained and have a certificate (59 day course similar to a Nurses Aid in the US). If they have a client who is really ill or that they don't know what to do... they consult with the part time nurse (retired) and she will visit and give them advice. I have begun to do that as well even though I don't have a license. It is usually pretty rudimentary, that is,a dressing change, check a temperature, advise them to go to the clinic (gov't/ free) and how quickly it needs to be accomplished. So far, the saddest cases are the young ones whose mothers were HIV positive when the child was in utero and they contracted it then. Often the mother has died and the father can't be found (or has died) and the granny, auntie, cousin, neighbor, etc is having to care for the child. Of course the child will eventually die but in the meantime we try to keep them going to school and doing things that normal kids do. Sometimes the caretaker can get a foster grant but they have to provide the death certificate from the mother and other papers.

Enough about work! Last Sunday I attended a small Methodist Church here in Queenstown. It was similar to home with a piano and all. The hymnals don't have any notes and people just remember the tunes...maybe we should try it! The weekend before I went to a United Congregational Church of South Africa (with whom I am affiliated) and the church was mostly colored people speaking Africaans. The minister knew that I was coming so he did most of his sermon in English. Their hymn books are in Africaans and often they just sing from memory with great harmony. I am going next weekend to a regional meeting and will offer my services to the entire region (19 churches) for Health Promotion talks. Who knows how I would get there but I will worry about that later. I did start driving this week!!! It is quite a challenge to do a stick shift on the wrong side, drive on theleftside and of course the turn signal is where our windshield wipers are...fun. I have been picking up and taking home the workers since none of them drive. I am driving a bakki (synonym pick up truck).

Grace and Peace,
Sue

Sue Peeples served as a short-term volunteer at the Samaritan Care Center, East London, which works with HIV/AIDS patients, the HIV/AIDS home based care farm project in Queenstown and other clinics/projects in the Kei Region as discerned by the ministers in the Region of Kei and Jon and Dawn Barnes, Global Ministries missionaries.



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