Agony, ec­stasy of in­fected mother

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - BIANCA CA­PA­ZO­RIO

“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.

PIC­TURE: TRACEY ADAMS

POS­I­TIVE: Neliswa Nkwali is the proud mother of an Hiv-neg­a­tive son.

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