ARVs Gave me my Life Back. 1/12/olescents Living with HIV Face Complex Psychosocial Concerns: Require Targeted, Comprehensive Services. 20/7/1010
“I think I would be dead by now had I not started treatment,”
When a tall and scrawny Bongani Masalaza (37) of Khayelitsha was diagnosed with HIV in 1997 there was no antiretroviral (ARV) treatment available and he would battle to survive for 11 long years before he finally accessed the life prolonging drugs.
“I lost a lot of weight and couldn’t do anything for myself. My father who was a pensioner would wash me because I was too weak to do so myself. That time my understanding was that if you had HIV it meant you had AIDS. You would surely die,” said Msalaza..
Before his diagnosis Masalaza was not eating well and had heavy diarrhoea – he weighed 33kg.
“Even my feet were painful all the time. I could see that there was something wrong with me. So I went to the clinic where I tested positive for HIV,” he said.
However, a few months after his diagnosis, an unemployed Masalaza said he went back to the clinic where he was told he had Tuberculosis. He took his TB treatment for six months. He also recalls being put on Vitamin B complex and Bactrim in 2007. But he was still ill.
“I continued to get sick. I went to the clinic again to find out what was happening. After running some tests the nurses told me that I had TB again. This worried me because it was the second time I was getting TB. This time I was told that I would have to take treatment for eight months,” he said.
He said his CD4 count was 120 and he was weak. In January 2008 he was put on ARV treatment because the nurses saw that “I was too sick not to start treatment”.
“When I started the treatment it was difficult to take my pills. I always felt queasy after taking treatment. I then insisted that my sisters crush some of the pills into powder, especially efavirenz (one of the ARVs), before I could take it because it was too big. There were times when I felt I wanted to give up on treatment, but I would think of my health. I knew there was nothing else that could help me,” he said.
Now thriving with a CD4 count above 500 and weighing 62kg, Masalaza urges all patients on treatment “to stick to their treatment” even if it is at times tough due to side effects.
“I think I would be dead by now had I not started treatment,” he said