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A message of hope

Her name is Nombulelo Nolihle Yose. She is the only daughter of seven children from Dimbaza in the Eastern Cape. She married in 2004: “God gave us two handsome boys and we have a happy life in our marriage staying in Port Elizabeth”.

“In March 2006 my lovely husband got sick. I was not around that time, I was visiting my mother in King Williams Town then I received a call from my sister in-law and she said I must come back quickly.” When Nombulelo returned the following day she found her husband very sick: “He did not look at me, he just looked at the wall. My sister in-law told me that my husband is HIV positive and that his CD4 count is 83.”

In shock, Nombulelo took her children to get tested the next day and there she found out that she was HIV positive, along with her older son. “Because of the clinic counselling, my in-laws’ support and my own family support, I did not hurt myself,” says Nombulelo. “Even the community supported me a lot because I joined a support group and I disclosed [my status] so it’s where the community started to know about my HIV status. My CD4 count was 183.”

Nombulelo was sent with her husband and children to the Keiskamma Trust hospice in Hamburg where her husband could be monitored. The family were started on antiretroviral therapy (ART) but stayed in the hospice because Nombulelo’s husband also had TB. “He did not want to take all the treatment some times because he was vomiting a lot.”

“It was on Thursday in March 2008 when my lovely husband died in my hands. After the burial of my husband, I received a call from the Keiskamma Trust. When I was in the hospice, we used to have morning prayers every morning and I used to sing to those morning prayers. One day there was a man from Washington DC in these morning prayers, he listened to my voice and asked me and some people to come over to Washington DC to sing gospel music. It’s where I started to come to Keiskamma Trust so that I can join Keiskamma Gospel Group and we went to Washington DC and stayed there for two weeks singing to different places to fundraise for the hospice.”

When she returned from Washington, Nombulelo was employed at the Keiskamma Trust as a cleaner. But she had other ambitions: “I spoke to Mrs Zita, the professional nurse, that I want to be a care giver and she gave me that opportunity. I was responsible to take care of sick patients in the hospice until we stopped admitting patients.”

Now Nombulelo works as a data capturer and does cell phone monitoring: “Our Community Health Workers use cell phones when they do home visits and enter all patients’ information on the cell phone.” She is now the cell phone monitoring coordinator responsible for analysing patient data, cell phone monitoring, distributing staff payslips, buying airtime for health staff, taking pictures for health events and going to the monthly monitors’ meetings.

“That is my story about my personal life. I want to thank Keiskamma Trust health staff for supporting my family. I thank my both family (my in-laws and my own family) for their support in my life. Because I am a widow, my family and my beautiful kids depend on me. It means a lot to me to be Keiskamma Trust worker.”

Nombulelo has a message of hope for others who may be living with HIV: “To all people who read this story, I want to say: GET TESTED AND BE TREATED EARLY! There is life with HIV. Here I am living with HIV – it’s been nine years now and I am not sick. I am beautiful and fit for work.”

Keiskamma Health Programme

The Keiskamma Health Programme, based in Hamburg, Eastern Cape, aims to improve the overall health status of the Peddie South community and reduce illness from preventable diseases. This is done by addressing the social causes of disease and focusing on primary health care in 47 villages in the surrounding area. The programme works closely with local clinics and the Department of Health to support and strengthen existing services.

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