She works with a support group of “positive ladies” in her hometown near Krugersdorp. She travels to the clinic as often as needed and her optimism shines through her gold eye shadow and wide smile. “I love the way I’m living now.”
Motsoahae credits Nelson Mandela’s family for inspiring her to face up to her status. The anti-apartheid icon galvanized the AIDS community in 2005 when he publicly acknowledged his son died of AIDS.
None of Motsoahae’s children was born with HIV. The number of children newly infected with HIV has declined significantly. In six countries in sub-Saharan Africa _ South Africa, Burundi, Kenya, Namibia, Togo and Zambia _the number of children with HIV declined by 40 to 59 percent between 2009 and 2011, the UNAIDS report said.
But the situation remains dire for those over the age of 15, who make up the 5.3 million infected in South Africa. Fear and denial lend to the high prevalence of HIV for that age group in South Africa, said the clinic’s Kay Mahomed.
About 3.5 million South Africans still are not getting therapy, and many wait too long to come in to clinics or don’t stay on the drugs, said Dr. Dave Spencer, who works at the clinic .
“People are still afraid of a stigma related to HIV,” he said, adding that education and communication are key to controlling the disease.
Themba Lethu clinic reaches out to the younger generation with a teen program.
Tshepo Hoato, 21, who helps run the program found out he was HIV positive after his mother died in 2000. He said he has been helped by the program in which teens meet one day a month.
“What I’ve seen is a lot people around our ages, some commit suicide as soon as they find out they are HIV. That’s a very hard stage for them so we came up with this program to help one another,” he said. “We tell them our stories so they can understand and progress and see that no, man, it’s not the end of the world.”
By Elaine Donnelly
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