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Lesotho Aids diary: Patient

The BBC is following the lives of seven people from the community of St Rodrigue, in Lesotho, who will share their hopes and fears as they each struggle to live with and work through the country's HIV/Aids crisis.


Mamatsoele Leseo | Patient | Setleketseng village

I'm from Setleketseng village, but I always come to St Rodrigue to visit the clinic.

patient
Age: 29
Lives: Setleketseng village
Occupation: Subsistence farmer
Wishes
I wish Lesotho was a rich country, like America or England.
I wish my family and I could have whatever we needed, whenever we needed it.
I wish I had a house of my own and a car. That would be so amazing.

I first came to the clinic when I was very sick. I could no longer walk. I was so weak my joints could not hold me up.

My mother had to bring the nurses to our home, as I could not make it up the mountain. They tested me and in August 2006 I found out I was HIV-positive.

The diagnosis was not such a terrible shock. That might seem strange, but I just wanted to know what was wrong, whatever the diagnosis.

I had felt sick for so long and had already gone for lots of tests to other doctors, but did not get any answers. I was not afraid as I thought it would go away, that it was temporary.

I did not know much about HIV then, but one day on the radio I heard you could get a free test for it in St Rodrigue. I decided I needed that test.

I had no idea I was that sick. If I had known more about HIV, I would have got tested earlier.

I started anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) almost immediately after my diagnosis.

Three weeks later my limbs could carry me again.

Afraid

Everyone has to have counselling before starting treatment to make sure they are ready, as it has to be taken for life and that is not an easy thing to come to terms with.

At the beginning there were side-effects - bad pains in my feet and terrible headaches. However, I continued with the drugs, because the lay counsellors warned me I needed to, if I wanted to live.

Not all of my family have gone for the test. My mother and one sister tested negative but my other four siblings are afraid to get tested I think. I tell them that the medicine saves lives - that it saved my life.

They make promises to go tomorrow - but tomorrow never comes.

Of course I worry about them, because in Lesotho there are so many young people with HIV and there are always funerals in our community. Some die because they feel better and think they can stop taking their ARVs.

Others stop taking their medicine because of side-effects or because they get depressed. They say they do not want to struggle through treatment for the rest of their lives. They give up, stop fighting for life and die.

But you have to have hope. I have hope. I think of my treatment as the daily bread I need for life.

Acceptance

When I tell people I am HIV-positive, they do not believe me, because I look healthy. In the village, some even say that I must be getting paid to say I have it to encourage others to get tested. That's because I do not fit with their image of someone with HIV.

They think I should look really wasted and sick, with fluffy hair and spots all over my skin. I explain that I look so healthy because I got tested in time to get treatment from the clinic and that they must get tested too.

I did not know anyone else with HIV when I was first diagnosed. Now I know loads of people through the support group run by the lay counsellors. Many talk openly about their status, but others are stigmatised in their families and villages. Others who join are in denial about their status.

But when they see people in the group from their own village who are HIV-positive, it helps them to accept it.

I always tell people I am HIV-positive. I am free to say it out loud. One day I hope to be a nurse, so I can help give other people back their health. The nurses in this community were amazing to me when I was sick.


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