“I know what I want, sex can wait.”
This was the message on posters at the National AIDS Council in Manzini, Swaziland. A mixture of awareness raising and empowerment. They even had children’s books with sound effects and pictures to teach younger generations about AIDS and TB.
“Faith-based initiatives also have an impact,”said Busi Dlamini, the centre’s coordinator. “People tend to believe priests more about the need for behaviour changes… although what they do with that information is another question.”
The messages of fidelity at the government-run AIDS Council coincided with the Catholic Church’s teachings on HIV. The Church receives criticism for its stance on HIV prevention, but what isn’t often mentioned, is the enormous amount of care the Church provides for people living with HIV and AIDS in developing countries.
After my visit to the AIDS Council, I went to a Caritas-supported project in Manzini called Hope House. The collection of 16 residential bungalows provide a temporary home to people having difficulties with AIDS-related illnesses. Hope House also provides medical and psychological support.
“Now I eat a lot, but when I came here, I was vomiting and I only wanted water,” said Khulelaphi Mavuso, 30. “I was SO thin and feeling dizzy all the time. Now I eat all the time, I even wake up at night to eat.”
For the past few months, Khulelaphi has been receiving care for HIV and TB from Hope House. She lives in one of the comfortable bungalows where she has a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom which has an extra bed so her mum can stay with her.
Now, Khulelaphi is grinning broadly and looks the picture of health. But she tells me that not so long ago, she could no longer cope with her illness.
“Once I overdosed on pills,” she said. “I was feeling like I wanted to die.”
“But now I don’t want to die. I want to proceed with my dreams,” she said. “I can feel like I’m a person like other persons even though I’ve got HIV.”