Tired does not even begin to describe how I feel right now…luckily I was able to muster up enough energy for some power walking and abs btu I think that I’m in serious need of a boot camp style workout where I have someone yelling and kicking my butt for at least a good hour. The whole lack of exercise has made me pretty sluggish for the past few days but I know that I am doing far better things with my time than spending hours at the gym.
For instance, today I spent my time speaking with this amazing woman, Angela, who works for an NGO and spends her time as a doctor in 30 different clinics up here in Mpumalanga. She is extremely passionate about the fight against HIV/AIDS and for the first time I felt like there was actually a huge problem in South Africa. I had grasped the issues prior to today but never before had I seen someone from South Africa SO extremely upset about the medical system and lack of drugs, doctors and quality care.
I’ll try to keep this short for those of you who have busy lives but would love to talk more about it if you have the time (just ask me). To keep it short, Angela explained to me that Mpumalanga (the province I am currently in) is typically the slowest at implementing new policies, medications and treatments compared to other provinces and areas such as Gauteng (where Joburg is located) and Western Cape (Cape Town).
For example, in 2007 Cape Town began giving AZT treatment (HiV treatment) to pregnant women to reducing transmission to the child. When Angela began work in Mpumalanga in 2009, there was still no AZT treatment—sisters and doctors were still oblivious to the treatment itself.
Also, the government itself is extremely corrupt and lacks the proper management to pay for and order enough ART (ARV) drugs for the number of patients they have. What does this mean? The more modern drugs that cause less severe side effects are running out and they are having to place patients back on the older drug that causes body fat to deplete and cause the “sunken” face that is so commonly associated with late stages of AIDS and death. Even worse, the government is not always paying the pharmaceutical companies that provide the drugs so that the companies get fed up with the lack of payment and withdraw their supply.
I thought it was a great opportunity to speak with one of the leaders in charge of bringing AZT treatment to South Africa after reading about the drug being used in the U.S. She also pushed to extend HIV treatment to patients with CD4 counts at 350 instead of the low of 200 which is what the government was using—she makes sure to push this further even when the patient is at a slightly higher level because she would rather treat them than send them home and watch them slowly die.
What I thought was beyond empowering was her drive, compassion and dedication to the fight against HIV and AIDS. Back home I always thought of HIV as an awful disease but that everyone and their brother, sister etc knew that it was a problem and there were plenty of people testing vaccinations and treatments but I had NEVER spoken with someone who had such a direct influence on the disease treatment and who truly understood that it is a HUGE problem in South Africa—so much so that South Africa is the #1 country for those living with HIV/AIDS representing over 2.5 million individuals out of the 3.3 million that are affected globally.
Okay, I promised I wouldn’t rant but it just makes me so mad that the government doesn’t understand that this is a huge issue. Angela explained to me that many of the health officials and government big wigs in Mpumalanga still believe in witchcraft, spirits and the natural healing powers of the Sangoma (herbalist/ medicine man in the village). Honestly tell me, how are you supposed to get anywhere with advancements in medicine when government doesn’t accept the power of western medicine and HIV treatment?
Okay, enough rambling for today…I promise. Want some cool lingo?
Sawubona- Hello (Swati)
Sanebonnane- Hello (Zulu)
Molo- Hello (Xhosa)
Molwane- Hello to many people (Xhosa)
Kunjani- How are you? (Xhosa)
Fun fact? I have learned hello in 3 prominent native languages in South Africa which are all listed above. Many people are fluent in their native language, Africans and English.