Friday, January 07, 2011


Can you imagine being sick and facing nearly certain death in a culture where you are too ashamed and afraid to let your condition be known? Can you imagine being so tired from your illness that you have a hard time walking to the clinic where you would receive your treatment because you can't afford bus fare? Can you imagine knowing that that if your husband or family found out your secret that you could possibly lose your children and be forced from your home? Can you imagine being called a "rotten potato" by even children if people found out about your disease?

So is the fate for hundreds of thousands of people in Swaziland, Southern Africa. In a country with the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the world, a frightening percentage of the population lives in this very circumstance. One in four adults are infected and over ten percent of the population is comprised of children who have lost one or both parents to this deadly disease.

Below is the story of one such Swazi and her children as posted by Adventures in Missions staffer Scott Borg on his blog.


SWAZILAND: Thembi, "Even the children, they call a person with AIDS a `rotten potato'"

SIPOFANENI, 5 January 2011 (PlusNews) - Thembi (last name withheld) is a 33-year-old HIV-positive mother of three who has lived in rural poverty all her life. She lives alone with her children amid the low green hills of Swaziland's central Manzini region, while her husband is away working in South Africa.

"I am worried that I messed up my treatment. I have missed clinic appointments. Sometimes when this happens I run out of medications. I started ARVs almost two years ago, but it is off and on. I am alone most of the time with my three small children. I have no money for bus fare and the clinic is too far to walk. Also I am very tired most days. If I could follow my treatment better maybe I would have more energy, but I do the best I can.

"The children have to be looked after. The neighbour's two-year-old girl drowned in a bucket of water. She fell in head first. It was only five minutes, but when her mother returned she was dead. Something like that scares me more than missing my medications.

"I have not told my husband I am HIV positive. I got it from him, so I know he must have HIV but he hasn't tested. They tested me when I was pregnant with my youngest. She is now two years old. I am silent because he chased away his first wife when he learned she was HIV-positive. I am [his] second wife. The first [wife] fell ill and when she told him she was HIV [-positive] he sent her to her parents' homestead. He blamed her. He did not test because maybe he was scared but I tested, because of her.

"No one knows I have HIV but the clinic... No one must know I have HIV. They can blame me and chase me away. Even the children, they call a person with AIDS a `rotten potato'. People shun you. People die of AIDS and no one will say this is the reason because then some relatives will refuse you to be buried in the family graveyard.

"When I go to the clinic I take my children. I tell my in-laws we are going for their check-ups. I hide my ARVs where no one will find them. I feel very alone doing this. But I don't want to die. I love my children so much. I love my husband even though he can be ignorant and cruel. But he is better off with me in his life than with me dead.

"We have nothing, no electricity, and the water comes from far away. I like to sing. We sing and pray together as a family. My children like to hear me sing. They have their favourite songs they ask me to sing. I will stay alive so I can sing for them a long time."


One of the ways that our family is involved in ministry in Swaziland is by helping women like Thembi through sponsoring children at the Beveni Carepoint. All of the Children's HopeChest sponsored children are either orphans or vulnerable children who are extremely impoverished and are at risk of becoming HIV/AIDS postive or are already infected. Through sponsorship, the children are assured that their basic needs will be met even if their parents are dead or their caregivers are too sick or poor to care for them adequately. The Children's HopeChest/Adventures in Missions carepoints also seek to improve the lives of the communities in their surrounding areas through other services such as free clinics and teaching women how to handcraft purses that are sold to financially support their families.

If you are interested in helping children of Swaziland, contact Danielle Brower at . Let's help bring peace of mind to women just like Thembi and true hope for the future of their families.

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