Festival of Life on World AIDS Day 2010

On 01 December 2010 the Blessed Gérard’s Hospice HAART Programme hosted its traditional celebration of the Festival of Life on the World AIDS Day again.

Father Gérard Lagleder OSB opened the ceremony with a prayer. Father was first to address those present mentioning the importance of the patients to the Care Centre’s cause , and he stated his gratitude to the patients, Council, Management and the HAART Team as a whole for all their contribution to making the Programme the success it is today.

Mr Sven Anderson, the general manager, was second to address the audience. He thanked the patients, council, management and the HAART team as well.

Mr Zulu, on behalf of the Therapeutic Counsellors, namely Mr P Dube and the former, spoke on the progress the support groups have made. He also encouraged patients to be self sufficient.

Members of the HAART Team and other staff

It was then the turn of one of the patients to speak freely about what she felt about the HAART Programme and what it is like to live with HIV on a daily basis. Her testimony evoked a lot of emotion how she is living positively with HIV infection:

"Greetings to you all

My name is Claudette Louw. I grew up in Mangethe and now I stay in Mandeni. I am 42 years old. I work at Siqumbe (Renckens) where I have worked for 20 years. In April 2004 I became ill for three months, attending various doctors without getting better. I was eventually admitted into Stanger Hospital. I would vomit when trying to eat as I couldn’t stand the smell of food, even the perfume fragrances.

The doctors said that I had stomach ulcers and advised me to stop eating tomatoes, spicy food etc. I was discharged from hospital after being there for two days. I called my aunt telling her that I was ill but didn’t know what the cause of my illness was. She made me an appointment with her doctor in Durban.

I consulted with the doctor; he did an ultrasound and told me that I had ulcers in my stomach. He referred me to McCord Hospital to have an abdominal X-Ray performed. I went there and the attending doctor asked me what was wrong and I told him that I have been diagnosed with stomach ulcers. He advised me to have an HIV test done before he could continue looking after me. I had the pre-test counselling where they asked me why I wanted to have the HIV test done. I explained that I had been ill for three months with no improvement.

I took the blood test, waited for five minutes, after which the results on a small piece of paper in a sealed envelope, came back. I hesitated for a while before eventually opening the envelope. It was written “HIV TEST POSITIVE” and the CD4 count was 254. Tears welled up in my eyes and I thought that my life had come to its end. I asked for permission, from the hospital, to call my workplace and they agreed. I called my boss, unable to speak because I was on the brink of crying. I told her (Mrs Taljard) that I want to commit suicide and she asked me what the problem was. I told her that I was HIV positive. Her words to me were “Claudette we love you, think about your child”, at the time my child was 12 years old. I subsequently phoned my aunt to fetch me since I had finished. When we arrived at home she asked me how it had gone at the doctor’s. I told her, tearfully, that I had the HIV. She cried because she thought that I was going to die soon after and I was also crying thinking that I was going to leave this world.

I went back home to Mangethe and told my whole family. Their words were that I am not the first and not the last and that life goes on. I trust that many people know that the ARVs were not free back then, I had to buy them for R900.00 every month. My family helped me buy the ARVs for the first five months. They (ARVs) would make me sick but I continued taking them, it was not easy. I would shy away from people because I had lost weight having gone from a 36 to a 30 dress size. In October 2004 I heard that HIV people were being welcomed at Blessed Gerard’s Hospice. That’s when I started taking ARVs for free and currently my CD4 count is 1128.

Today I wish to thank all the people who were helping me at work, at Blessed Gerard’s Hospice HAART Programme, my family and friends. Their help has made me live my life to the fullest.

I would like to end by saying that AIDS doesn’t kill; it is denial that causes one to die. One more thing is that ARVs clash with traditional medicines and mixtures.

I love you all.

There are a lot of people who have been helped, because of me, in my work place. Thank you."


Dr K Nzimande informed the patients about new developments and improvements in the treatment regimens. Finally he thanked Council, Management, the HAART Team, especially the Therapeutic Counsellors for their sterling work. He finally thanked those in the HAART Programme for accepting him as their doctor and for being so strong in their fight with HIV/AIDS.

A delicious lunch was served, thanks to Mrs Beaumont and the Kitchen Staff, which everyone present enjoyed after the blessing by Father Gérard.

The Support Groups presented a Thank you cake to Fr Gérard and other gifts for the HAART Team.

Father Gérard was requested to close the day as he opened it, with prayer. Everyone subsequently dispersed with renewed vigour to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Although it is quite difficult to put in words the atmosphere in that hall it is sufficient to say that if there are people like those (patients and staff) who still yearn to do so much in the field of HIV/AIDS, then there is still hope for humanity to be victorious in the war against HIV/AIDS.

This page is part of the Newsletter No. 30 of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard

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