‘My life is to care for positive lives’

2010-10-10 15:50

Irene Montwedi thought things couldn’t get any worse when she

tested HIV positive five years ago.

She already had ­diabetes and regularly lurched from illness to

health. But for the unemployed woman from Phokeng near Rustenburg, life did get

worse.

She was diagnosed with multi-drug resistant (MDR) ­tuberculosis – one of

the most ­virulent strains of the infection – and had to be hospitalised for

eight months.

Montwedi is unmarried with no children and was terrified that she

would somehow be “judged” by people when they found out. But she found solace

and support among fellow churchgoers at the local Catholic church.

It was at church that Montwedi – herself on a strict regimen of­

anti-Aids and TB suppression drugs – found out about a home-based care programme

for people living with HIV and those dying from Aids.

A self-described “carer” by ­nature, Montwedi has since 2005 been

working with the ­programme; offering counselling, ­patient care and medication

­management to hundreds of ­people across Phokeng.

The desperate circumstances of many of her patients move Montwedi

to tears. She relates the story of one of the first patients she visited in

Freedom Park, a Rustenburg squatter camp.

The woman was epileptic and lived alone. Montwedi often found her

collapsed in her shack after a fit. Although she ­displayed all the symptoms,

she ­refused to be tested for HIV, like many others.

Montwedi says: “They don’t want to disclose because they would be

judged or rejected.”

Montwedi’s ordinarily shy, ­soft-spoken demeanour changes as she

walks the streets of Phokeng in her neat navy and white uniform, ­visiting

patients.

She has devoted her life to caring for others, but takes time out

in the parish.

When she feels down, Montwedi says she finds inspiration in the

­Bible and in making a difference in the lives of her ­patients. She admits it

isn’t always easy, though.

“Many of these people are ­neglected. What they need most is love

and support up to the end of their lives,” says Montwedi.

She follows a strict protocol ­during home visits: although she

jokes and socialises with the ­patients, she’s here to check one thing – that

they are taking their medication.

The first thing she does on ­entering a home is to walk around the

yard, inspecting the condition of the house.

Once this is done, she sits down with the patient to discuss how

their health has been since her last visit.

They then take out the antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

Montwedi and the

patient pour the big tablets onto a plate and count them out together. This, she

says, is done to be sure the patient is taking the drugs correctly and on

time.

One of the biggest challenges facing HIV healthcare workers, like

Montwedi, is the use of traditional medicines with the ARVs, which she says

dilute their efficacy.

“The thing is most people don’t understand is it’s chronic

medication. You have to be on it for the rest of your life,” Montwedi

says.

Montwedi herself knows just how hard this can be.

The ­side-

­effects from the drugs have been ­serious, but they are tolerable and

eventually wear off, she says.

She suffers from occasional ­dizzy spells, which is the worst side

effect.

“If the patients I see every day can take them despite their

­desperate circumstances, I can take them too,” she says.


Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.