Laura Lopez Gonzalez
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