39-year old Fikelephi Elizabeth Dombolo SIthole shares her story.
I started coughing up blood but had no pain anywhere so I got tested for Tuberculosis in 1999. The results came back negative. I tested six times, and each time the results were negative. Then a nurse suggested an HIV test. The result was positive. I received no counseling and I had to deal with it. I was asked whether I had a funeral plan because back then we were not given any hope that we will live long with HIV.
My mother is my role model because at the age of 40 she was told that she would die because she has high blood pressure. But she is still alive today at the age of 60 years and I thought “If she can survive this long so can I”.
I chose to go to Edendale hospital in 2001. There were no ARVs back then and I was only given Bactrim and TB treatment isoniazid (INH).
In 2003 I fell pregnant and had to take Nevarapine for the sake of the baby. I also did not breastfeed and the baby was negative.
Then in 2004 my CD4 count dropped then I had to start ARVs.
In 2006 I was working at Edendale Hospital, where I teach. That's where I got introduced to the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
In 2012 I fell pregnant again. The baby is now nine months old and is also HIV-negative. I live with my partner and two children, but I am currently unemployed.
Things have changed a lot from the year I got tested. Then there were no counselors so a person could have easily broken down but now it is better because you receive counseling and you choose if you want to disclose or not.
I received a very good support from my family and my community and have never been stigmatized or discriminated against.
The previous pill I was on had a lot of side effects, but this combined pill might have fewer. Also, for people who don't want to disclose their status, it's easier to take just one pill without people noticing. And I think the defaulter rate will go down. And the pill will probably also reduce liver toxicity. I am really happy about the fixed dose combination drug.
Lungile Ngubane is an OurHealth citizen journalist reporting from Umgungundlovu district in KwaZulu Natal.