Kerry Cul­li­nan

Laura Lopez Gon­za­lez

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Her friend Khosi Dlamini is con­vinced that Mtsweni’s ex­ten­sive med­i­cal knowl­edge saved her life when doc­tors ig­nored her symp­toms.

Dlamini fell sick in 2010, shortly after join­ing TAC. She turned to Mtsweni after be­ing sent away from the lo­cal clinic with­out help.

“Be­cause of her knowl­edge about the med­i­ca­tion, she thought I had lac­tic aci­do­sis [a po­ten­tially fa­tal side ef­fect of one of the ARVs],” says Dlamini.

“Fik­ile pres­sured the doc­tor, who ex­am­ined me again and saw that I should be ad­mit­ted. She saved my life. Now my vi­ral load is un­de­tectable and it’s be­cause of her – that’s why I say she is my best friend,” she adds.

Mean­while, the quiet and hum­ble Sizila is the su­per­glue that holds the TAC branches to­gether. TAC ad­min­is­tra­tor Kholeka Rasalanavho says he is the first per­son who peo­ple go to when there are prob­lems.

“If some­one has been at­tacked at 3am and needs help, he will be there. No ques­tions,” she says.

“We would be lost with­out him. Even now, peo­ple are wait­ing out­side to talk to him. Other or­gan­i­sa­tions have of­fered him a lot of money to go and work for them, but he stays with us.”

But 20 years ago, while the rest of South Africa was en­joy­ing its first taste of democ­racy, 20-year-old Sizila had just tested HIV-pos­i­tive and re­fused to ac­cept the re­sult.

It took two fur­ther tests, nu­mer­ous sick­nesses and a move from Uiten­hage in the East­ern Cape to Khayelit­sha be­fore he ac­cepted his sta­tus.

“I was in and out of sick­ness so, in 2004, I ac­cepted that I had HIV and needed ARVs,” says Sizila. “TAC was run­ning treat­ment support groups for peo­ple start­ing ARVs, so I joined one to learn about HIV.”

With an affin­ity for hard work and mo­ti­vat­ing peo­ple, Sizila was soon elected TAC branch sec­re­tary for Khayel­isha while he was also ac­tive in the ANC Youth League.

But after be­ing dis­ci­plined by the ANC for call­ing then pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki an Aids de­nial­ist, he de­cided to leave pol­i­tics.

“The ANC de­fends in­di­vid­ual lead­ers even when they are wrong, but civil so­ci­ety stands for all the peo­ple,” says Sizila. “The TAC is my pas­sion. We call TAC ikhaya be­cause it is a home for us. If it closes, I will be very frus­trated,” he says.

– Health-e News

The TAC’s Lumk­ile Sizila (left) and Fik­ile Mtsweni say the cam­paign is their pas­sion

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