Agony, ecstasy of infected mother
“I REMEMBER the day I started on ARVS. April 14, 2002. It was a Tuesday.”
When Neliswa Nkwali began her treatment, she had already known for two years that she was Hiv-positive. Her CD4 count was just 39. She wore a tiny size 26. She was tired, had contracted tuberculosis, and had oral thrush.
Seven years later, she is still on the first line of treatment. But she wears a healthy size 36 and her CD4 count is 920.
Nkwali is the district co-ordinator for the Treatment Action Campaign in Khayelitsha. She’s busy. Very busy.
Other than being part of a runners- for- health club, she has also enrolled at the University of the Western Cape to study social work, part-time, next year.
In 2005, Nkwali gave birth to a baby boy. Little Siviwe was Hiv-negative, despite both his parents being Hiv-positive.
Nkwali knew she wanted to have a child, so sought her doctor’s help before falling pregnant. She took the drug nevirapine during her pregnancy, and her son was placed on AZT at birth.
Nkwali smiles when she talks about her son, now six years old. “He is so active.”
But she wasn’t always so upbeat. In 1998, she travelled to Cape Town from Butterworth, in the Eastern Cape, in search of “greener pastures”.
Two years later, while working as a chef, she discovered she had contracted TB. “I started my treatment. But I did not recover, I just got worse.”
She was then advised to take an HIV test, which came back positive. “I was living with my boyfriend then. I was so frustrated. I was crying and asking ‘why me’? I knew I had to disclose to my partner.”
When she told him, he admitted he already knew he was positive, but had been afraid to tell her.
“I was very angry.”
But the couple made the decision to support each other, and are today “treatment partners”, helping ensure each gets and takes their medication.
In 2005 they were married, and decided to start a family.
POSITIVE: Neliswa Nkwali is the proud mother of an Hiv-negative son.