This is the first post in North Star Alliance’s “Women and Wellness“ series which celebrates the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day by exploring issues related to women’s health and wellness in the transport sector and related communities. The following article is by Thabsile Sithole, transcribed by Robin Landis.
I am Thabsile Sithole. I am a mother, daughter, sister, partner and friend. I am also a peer counselor at the North Star Alliance Roadside Wellness Centre in Ngwenya, Swaziland.
I am HIV positive. I have been on anti-retroviral (ARV) medication since August 2003. When I first found out that I was positive, I was very scared. But I was lucky that my family and boyfriend accepted my status and supported me. I work hard to stay healthy and I take my medicine twice a day even though it is very strong. I always try to eat healthily and get a good night’s sleep.
My son is HIV negative. He gives me joy and I know he has a long, healthy life ahead. I look after my health to be able to live that life with him. The will to live is one of the strongest medicines for people living with HIV. If you have the will to live then your body will respond, your quality of life will improve, and you will live a longer, healthy and more productive life. I get my will to live from my family and my job.
Because I am living with HIV I am much better at talking to people who come to the Roadside Wellness Centre. Sometimes I tell the truck drivers my status and they listen to me. They don’t judge me. Sometimes they open up to me and tell me their stories. I like helping the truck drivers and I like listening to them. I help them understand the health risks and how to protect themselves. I tell them they have a responsibility to their wives and their children. I tell them how lucky I am to know my status and to have a healthy son. I also tell them how much my boyfriend’s support means to me.
I think the Roadside Wellness centres are a very good idea for Africa. They really help the people in the community a lot but mostly they help the truck drivers. Truck drivers have deadlines; they don’t have the time to go to the government hospitals in Mbabane because they are under pressure. The people take lots of condoms and watch the DVD that shows how to put it on. They visit with the nurse and she treats them for sexually transmitted infections and other things. I tell the people in my support group meetings to come and get tested and I motivate them to live positively.
I am very proud to work at the wellness centre because everyone who comes there says it’s the best health clinic they know. If it weren’t for North Star Roadside Wellness Centres I would not be able to do my counselling and the community members would not hear my message and the truck drivers would get sick and some might even die. I have the responsibility to serve my community, the truck drivers and their families.