THIRTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD Khangelani Motha is a patient in the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust’s (HACT) Respite Unit. He is eager to share his story in the hope that it will help others not make the same mistakes that led him to this point in his life.Intelligent and athletic, Motha was good at school and had a bright future ahead of him. However, after the death of his father when he was just 15, Motha’s life changed drastically. Prior to this, Motha’s mother was in a relatively stable job and his gogo also worked, so there was money coming into the family. Motha passed his final Matric exams and made it into University, but then things at home changed significantly.“Not long after my brother and my gogo got sick, my mother met another man. She always looked after me well, but after she got married and moved in with her new husband, I couldn’t join her and I had to stay with my cousins. After the loss of my father, I missed my mother and gogo deeply. Anger and pain grew inside me.” In 2007, when Motha was 20 years old, the loss of his father and the isolation from the rest of his close family became too much and Motha dropped out of his studies.“...it was also the money; studying was too expensive,” Motha recalls, adding “life changed once my mother left. She made sure I had money for food. She gave it to my cousins for the grocery shopping, but I didn’t get along with my cousins so I didn’t always eat.”At the age of 21, Motha allowed himself to try the kind of hard drugs rife in so many local communities where employment and hope are just distant dreams: “They are the kind of drugs that make you feel good now and even good tomorrow — they stop you feeling anger and pain — but they are dangerous and very, very hard to give up.”Motha became very ill for the first time in 2012. He was 25 and had been living on the streets around Pinetown, taking drugs, and going between the streets and his cousins’ place. It was then that he found out he was HIV positive with full-blown Tuberculosis (TB).“I started HIV and TB treatment after attending the local clinic and getting some counselling and soon I felt a lot better. But then I went back to my cousin’s and the old frustrations came back. I stopped taking my treatment.”The TB came back and the cycle continued — Motha started treatment, felt better, went back to the streets to escape his frustration, got into drugs, and failed to finish yet another course of treatment.In 2018, Motha became seriously ill. The symptoms of TB were back but much, much worse: “I slept all day, wore nappies and couldn’t even walk to the toilet, let alone the clinic. I got so ill that I had to be carried to the clinic. This was in June. Eventually I was admitted here to the HACT’s Respite Unit. We knew about it because my uncle and gogo had both passed away in the Unit in 2015. I started the treatment again.”Motha describes his care in HACT’s Unit as “very different to what I had previously experienced at clinics and hospitals. “They care for you personally. They give you more attention; you get good, healthy food. The nurses are great — better than in the hospitals. Now I can take 40 to 50 steps and breathe more freely,” he says, smiling. Motha says he is not in a rush to go back home because he wants to get completely better this time; to stay on his medication. He is also adamant he does not want to get back in to the same pattern of drugs again. “My advice to others is NOT to take drugs — you will make bad decisions, get sick and then die. I was on drugs. I had no idea what I was doing and who I got the HIV from. On drugs you will feel good today but terrible later. Just trying to stop after taking drugs for one day is hard — the drugs damage you. “You also need to try to deal with your problems in a different way. Do sports, talk to someone you can trust to heal from the anger. I never talked to anyone about the anger and pain of the loss of my father and mother; of being left alone. I didn’t care about myself and I thought I didn’t care about anything. But I do care about what happens to me. Yes, and I believe in God.”Although Motha finds it hard to think about what will happen next, he has decided to take one step at a time: “I would like to find a job or do volunteering and have something worthwhile to do. Lying around unemployed all day just gets you thinking and that gets you into the wrong things.”To end off, Motha says honesty with those who care for you is important, although not easy: “It helps that my mum knows now how I feel. I am grateful that she is very supportive and both mum and my stepdad visit me here. Mum wants me to talk about what I have been through; to help others to stay out of trouble and stay away from drugs. So, this is why I want to share my story...” — Supplied.