The Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust (HACT) is located in KwaZulu-Natal (?), a province of South Africa, which, unfortunately, is home to the one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world - around 40% of adults are infected.
In a recent shipment of Little Traveller dolls we also received this moving letter of a nurse's experience and perspective providing care in KwaZulu-Natal
Her name was Ntombikayise. I met her in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. When I met her she was gaunt and covered in sores, suffering from severe diarrhoea and vomiting. Her legs and feet were swollen and she pulled away in pain when I reached out to touch her. Her family was buried behind her home in three shallow graves. Pointing to the largest she said: 'This is my husband, he brought me my AIDS from Johannesburg... from the mines'. The two smaller graves belonged to her two youngest children aged 3 months and 4 years. Her home, a small, round, mud brick house with a rusty corrugated roof was dark and smelt of smoke. There was no furniture, only a grass mat and a black pot balanced on cold ashes in the middle of the floor. We had been called by a neighbour to do a home visit. Her neighbours had been trying to take care of her but were finding it difficult to keep her comfortable and clean because both spent most of each day away from home looking for work. The closest water source was a tap a few meters away from her house. She had no electricity. Ntombikayise spent most days on her own, too weak to walk to the outside pit toilet or pour herself a glass of water.
When I met her, she was almost entirely dependent on the goodwill of her neighbours. I looked at her clinic notes and read that she had been diagnosed HIV+ 9 months previously and had been treated for TB for 6 months at the local government clinic. Ntombikayise was dying. Where was I when she watched her children die, watched her husband die, felt herself becoming sicker and weaker, too afraid to go for help, pinned down by fear and prejudice? I was with her when she died. Where am I now when 300 people die within the next 24 hours and another 1500 are infected?
Nurse at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust
Please note: The staff at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre draw their strength from many places, including from their faith. However, they do not impose force their faith on others, nor discriminate based on creed, race, religion, or any other descriptor. They care for anyone affected by AIDS, and their compassion and kindness is uncompromising.