“I never wanted to gain so much weight. All I wanted to do was to make people stop calling me bad names because I am HIV positive,” said Emmerancia Mndawe.
When Mndawe fell ill and lost a considerable amount of weight people in her neighbourhood speculated about the reasons behind her weight loss, and some even told her she has ingculazi — a slang word for HIV.
“When people in my community hear you’re seriously ill, they already diagnose you. It’s like we’re living amongst experts of diseases and chronic illnesses,” Mndawe told Health-e News.
She suspected she may be HIV-positive, but it took a while before she went for a test.
Speaking on Tuesday at the 9th South African Aids Conference in Durban, Professor Francois Venter, the deputy executive director of the Wits Reproductive Health Institute, said there is a massive benefit to starting antiretrovirals (ARVs) early. “But the problem in South Africa — in fact, anywhere in the world — is that patients that come in late [for treatment] have low CD4 counts,” he said.