30 year-old Zinhle,* was admitted to Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust’s (HACT) Respite Unit after being referred by her local clinic.
Living with HIV for the past 14 years, this frail and painfully thin young woman was now facing a new battle; having recently been diagnosed with cancer. “I’m so grateful to be here” says a softly spoken, Zinhle, “I was in so much pain before coming here, but the nurses are taking good care of me…”
Zinhle’s story is one of struggle and survival. Looking back, she believes that finding out she was HIV positive when she was 14 years-old is when her battle started. “When they told me at the clinic I had HIV, I just couldn’t understand it. I struggled to accept it. I was in denial and chose to party instead.”
From there on, Zinhle’s life spiralled out of control. Casual drinking on the weekends quickly lead to experimentation and full-blown drug addiction. She became pregnant, dropped out of school and ran away from home, leaving her baby girl in the care of her mother. “Those were very dark days” says Zinhle. “I was living on the streets and drugs ruled my life. I didn’t worry about food or anything else. All I could think about was the drugs…. even when I started to get sick and developed sores on my body, I just ignored them…”
Zinhle found herself at rock bottom and placed a desperate call to her mother – she finally sought help. “After everything, it was my mother who helped me and took me to seek medical care…”
While Zinhle’s condition is serious, she is at least comfortable and concentrating on taking each day at a time. “I feel like I have come out of the darkness and into the light” says Zinhle, “I was lost for so long, but I want to tell others not to be afraid, be brave and face your fears then you can live a clean and healthy life…”
HACT offers both an in-patient unit and home-based care, and provides unconditional love, dignity support and compassionate care for those living with life threatening conditions including late-stage AIDS and cancer.
*Not her real name
031 765 5866