HIV-positive local woman on surviving Covid-19: “I thought I was going to die”

Mpho has been living with HIV for over eight years, contracted the coronavirus in May
Mpho has been living with HIV for over eight years, contracted the coronavirus in May
Nicky Lloyd/Getty Images

There is no end in sight for the war against Covid-19 and it will be a long time before normalcy resumes.  Mpho Mathebula is all too aware of this.

Mpho (34), who has been living with HIV for over eight years, contracted the coronavirus in May.

She shares her story with DRUM.

“I had very mild flu-like symptoms but I never imagined it would be the virus. I phoned my local clinic and the nurses asked me some questions. After that they advised me to isolate myself while working to get me tested, which I did. My results came back positive and like many people I panicked.

“I feared death because of my pre-existing condition. Not much is known yet about how the virus operates and that is scary for people living with HIV. I really thought I was going to die,” she says. The mother of two lives and works in Johannesburg North and comes from rural Limpopo.

She suspects she contracted the virus east of Joburg. “We don’t know this for sure but I only left my house to go for a coaching session around Bedfordview. After that meeting I went into a mall for some groceries and then headed back home – I had not been out of the house since the lockdown in March and all my meetings were virtual,” she tells DRUM.

Mpho says she didn’t need hospitalisation after her diagnosis.

Read more | Covid-19: Woman too ill to speak or walk

“I was sent home with lots of vitamins and told to rest. I also read up on what a lot of people were doing around the world. I had to improve my chances of survival. I wanted to live. I could not let the virus take me out like that. And so my self-care journey began,” she explains.

 “I am grateful that before the lockdown I sent my children home to visit my mother. I can’t imagine having to fight this off with them in the house. This way I could focus on myself.

“First things first, I was required by law to stay at home and not leave under any circumstances unless an ambulance was fetching me in the event that I got worse.

“I was in a separate bedroom from my husband, whose results came back negative. He would drop food off at the door in foam containers and go back out to immediately change the clothes he wore. He did this every time he brought food.

“I relaxed or at least tried to. People will tell you to take it easy but it’s the only thing you cannot do in a situation like that. It’s hard because you hear the news and see the number of deaths going up.

“I had to keep warm and drink lots of fluids. I don’t know how but I think this helped.

“While on my ARV treatment throughout the years I’d been maintaining a healthy diet and I was not going to stop now that I had this illness. I ate my kale and all the vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin C we could get our hands on. It was frantic,” she says. 

Read more | My HIV story: "I didn't think I would live this long or make it to 30"

A month after her diagnosis, Mpho is Covid-19 free and happy to have come out with her life.

“I understand that people will have different reactions depending in various factors. I’m not saying people should do what I did but I wanted to share my fight to give hope to someone who may have just received their results and don’t know how to begin dealing with it. Just fight,” she tells DRUM.

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