Being on first-name-terms with the AIDS death

by Deacon Thomas Müller

„Good morning Deacon. How are you?“ I turn around and I look directly into the dark brown beaming face of a Zulu, who must have approximately my age. One of our patients, Sipho, stands at the reception of our Care Centre. I have been here in Mandeni, South Africa as a volunteer for more than a year. Thus it happens increasingly frequently that I know patients coming into the house from before. I had collected Sipho from his house myself six months ago. He had been so weak that all of us thought that any help might be too late for him. I lay on the floor of his hut as we arrived with our ambulance. The entrance door was unusable and patent. I lay in the only room with his feet nearly in the door opening. His whole body was covered with dust so that he looked totally grey and he himself was just skin and bones. It was difficult to lay him onto our stretcher in this narrow and dark hut. He had been much too weak to help

Now he stands there, still marked by the past suffering, but well strengthened. We greet each other in the special Zulu way of shaking hands. "You look well, how are you doing?" "Oh, Deacon, I am so grateful to all of you. I am very well. I have no trouble with my antiretroviral medication and - you see it yourself - I have to be careful not to get too fat." "Well, don't worry, you can easily afford to gain some more weight." He found work again in iSithebe close by and he could even repair his hut.

I am happily whistling as I carry on doing my duties. Yes, it is so nice to be able to see that even very sick people can be helped. Sipho suffers from AIDS and apart from tuberculosis he had a whole string of other typical opportunistic infections which accompany the immune deficiency. AIDS still cannot be cured to this day, but tasking modern medication AIDS patients like Sipho can still live for many years enjoying a good quality of life and work raise their children and help to finally curb AIDS. Of course, all of us here have hope that medication may be found within the coming years which will be able to cure AIDS. I had not considered AIDS to be a big challenge before, but here, in the middle of Zululand: Sundumbili 76 % of tested people HIV-positive, iSithebe 88 % of factory workers HIV-positive in a test! It is a people dying here! The middle generation is nearly extinct already today.

The mostly volunteer helpers of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard are working right in the centre of this hopelessness. Many of those who come here into our Care Centre come too late for treatment to be effective. AIDS is still denied in spite of big educational drives and even the most basic rules of prevention are disregarded. Thus we can just accompany many patients lovingly in their last short phase of life and make it as pleasant and pain free as possible. Others are a bit stronger, like Sipho, and find the way back to their normal life with the help of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard.

Our Care Centre became ten years old. All of us, Zulu, South African Indians, English South Africans, coloureds and a few overseas volunteers are helping happily and as well and much as we can.

This page is part of the Newsletter No. 26 of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 12:50:21