HIV and AIDS brings about images of fear, death and destruction. One always thinks of it as a disease belonging “to others”. This was also Amanda Esterhuizen’s perception until a life-changing telephone call on a cold winter’s morning on 14 July 2000. The former wife of the man who infected her was on the line with a solemn but urgent request: have you tested for HIV?
In the weeks to come she was distraught, distressed and disillusioned. On top of it all, the doctor confirmed that the results were positive. The images of death and destruction became real. She was infected by a man she had only been intimate with ONCE. These events had turned her life into a roller coaster.
Up until that moment, Amanda was in her mid-thirties and had already experienced much pain in her life. As a child, she grew up with her grandmother and felt rejected by her parents, especially her mother. Her father was an abusive alcoholic who tried to settle everything with violence. “We were brutally assaulted with my mother just a poor spectator,” says Amanda. Her grandmother raised her in a liberal way, contrary to the belief-system at that time. Because of this, she was humiliated at school for believing in the truth and the feeling of rejection just grew stronger.
“Living with HIV for 12 years is the proverbial “hell of a long time”. Facing death daily has not been easy and my circumstances were not conducive to any stretch of imagination.
“I started working at 16 to assist my grandmother who was struggling financially. I fell pregnant and married at the age of 18. Adri, my second born, was very sickly and we had to spend hours at the doctor’s surgery. We moved from one settlement to the other until we could afford our own house in Odendaalsrus, Free State. Unfortunately we lost the house and it was repossessed. Sadly the marriage did not last much longer and eventually I returned to Kimberley.
“Following my divorce, I was involved in other relationships but none seemed to be really fulfilling and advanced plans for a second marriage were unceremoniously cut short when my fiancé coldly put and end to it.
“If I thought the worse was over, I was in for a big surprise. After meeting Hans, with whom I am now happily married, all hell broke loose. I started using drugs with Ecstacy (E) the drug of choice. We progressively drank more and more and soon we realized that the E was not strong enough and it was complimented with Tik, also known as Crystal Meth. We frequently travelled to Bloemfontein to dance the night away with dagga keeping us mild and mellow. Just imagine what this substance, individually and together, did to an individual with HIV! My habits ruined my business, my social life, my dreams and my HOPE.
After this tumultuous period, Hans proposed and with the blessing of her children and his family, they were married. It needs to be mentioned that apart from Hans, her children were an unwavering pillar of support. Amanda soon realised, you can be loved!
When she was initially diagnosed, Amanda’s CD4 count was between 500 and 600. Hans insisted that she take care of her health and after a long battle with herself, she took the first dose of ARVs on 14 March 2012 when her CD4 count was 220 – a step she never regretted. Gradually she realised that she may have HIV but HIV does not have her!
“It was during this turmoil , that grandma’s love for the Lord manifested in my life,” she says. “He revealed Himself as a true, just and caring God who in spite and despite of it all loved unconditionally. My name became a revelation to me – I am good enough to be loved. A new journey has started and people should know about it. This is a process of freeing myself and the path of others no matter culture, colour or ethnicity.”
The full story will be revealed in Amanda Esterhuizen’s book: God’s Grace – A Masterpiece at Work!
* Article featured on the NACOSA website: http://www.nacosa.org.za/