'He thought sex with a virgin would cure him' - Mercedes-Benz Forum

 
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'He thought sex with a virgin would cure him'

Last year, Rory Carroll visited MSF's HIV/Aids clinic in South Africa. Six months on, a TB/HIV clinic is thriving and a rape centre is offering comprehensive care


Five years after MSF started offering anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy to people with Aids in Khayelitsha, South Africa, 4,000 people are now receiving treatment. Khayelitsha now has the largest and oldest cohort of people on ARVs in South Africa. The project has gone from being a unique pilot scheme to one that incorporates HIV care and ARV provision as an essential part of primary health care.

In 2004, in response to the high numbers of people infected with both HIV and Tuberculosis (TB), MSF started a model programme integrating HIV and TB care. The model aims to develop a comprehensive medical response to both epidemics. In two years, the TB/HIV integrated clinic has become the busiest primary health care clinic in the province.


More recently, MSF has also taken up the challenge of developing a response to the high rates of rape in Khayelitsha. The Simelela rape centre offers comprehensive care to rape survivors, including post-exposure prophylaxis using anti-retroviral drugs. If taken within 72 hours of the attack these drugs can protect women against HIV infection.
Following is the personal account of one of MSF's patients, 23-year-old Babalwa Tembani.

"My uncle raped me when I was 14. I was arguing with him and he hit me. I blacked out and when I woke up I was in hospital and the police told me I had been raped. My uncle had HIV. After he attacked me he ran away. Later he wrote me a letter asking for forgiveness. He said he raped me because he thought having sex with a virgin would cure him of his disease. He said he felt sorry for me because now I had HIV and I was going to die. Then he killed himself. When my mother died in 1998 my auntie sent me money to come from the Eastern Cape and live with her in Cape Town. I was going to school and everything was good for a while but then I got sick. I told my auntie what had happened but she didn't believe me, she didn't believe that my uncle had infected me, she said I must have caught HIV from my boyfriend.

I got really, really sick. I had shingles and thrush. I couldn't eat. I couldn't walk. I was admitted to hospital but after a while the hospital said that I had to leave because they needed the bed. I had four days to find somewhere else.

So I went to live in Mother Teresa's hospice. The hospice is not just for people with HIV and Aids, people with all sorts of illnesses stay there. I was the youngest but I made some good friends. Everyone told me I had to accept my status. I left the hospice in 2001 to live back with my auntie. In 2002 I went back to school.

At school I told people that I was HIV positive. One day we had to do an assignment on HIV/Aids. I went to the Treatment Action Campaign office and they told me about MSF and anti-retrovirals (ARVs). I'd heard about ARVs before but I didn't know what they were exactly. When I arrived at the clinic my CD4 count was 139. MSF started me on anti-retrovirals. I've been taking tablets twice a day now for four years. I feel strong. I feel good.

A few months ago my auntie sent me back to the Eastern Cape, to King William's Town, where my family are from. I didn't want to go and I wasn't told for how long I would have to stay. My family kept me there for six months. I didn't have enough ARV drugs for that long, so for six months I was without treatment. I had no money so I couldn't buy more. One day my auntie gave me some money to get some food and I ran away back to Cape Town. I took the bus for 24 hours to get here. When I arrived I went straight to MSF because I knew I needed to start taking my ARVs as soon as possible. The head of mission, Eric, helped me get the drugs and said I should stay in Mother Teresa's again. I stayed there for a while, but now I live with a friend. I have a boyfriend. He knows about my status, but he has never taken the test before. We use condoms but I still tell him he must take the test for me. He's had other girlfriends and I don't want him to think that I gave him the disease.

I'm still going to school and I've got exams in June. I want to be a lawyer. I work with MSF and go to events and rallies to tell people my story and to tell women that if they are raped they must not keep quiet, they must speak out. If I become a lawyer I'll help women who've been raped and show them that it doesn't have to destroy your life."

Thanks, D.
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