Saturday, January 23, 2021

Rising from the HIV and drugs ashes

By Ruth Kedikilwe

Twenty eight year old Seilaneng of Tlokweng is living proof that it doesn’t take a fancy rehabilitation centre with world renowned doctors to get off drugs and take full control of your health. The mother of two is who a beneficiary of the Botswana Family Welfare Association (BOFWA) programs, has risen from the drugs and HIV /AIDS doldrums to be the master of her destiny.

She emerges from her shack made entirely of metal sheets and shyly asks that the interview be conducted away from the crowd as she is not comfortable around so many people.  She very guarded and weary of strangers asking personal questions,  but after a few pleasantries and small talk her face lights up in a radiant smile and talks freely of the trials and tribulations of being a mother of two with shady baby daddies.

She open up that  in 2007 at a tender age of 17 that she got in an amorous relationship for the first time in her life and three years later after completing her form three  she fell pregnant . While still reeling from the teenage pregnancy, she was diagnosed HIV positive. She pauses, swallows hard and blinks back tears as she  relieves the trauma of dealing with the double whammy of being pregnant and HIV positive barely out of her teen.

The only saving grace was the support from her partner who claimed to be HIV negative. While he was still trying to come to terms with the tragic turn her life had taken, her partner was incarcerated for assault only six months into her pregnancy. She braved her way through it all and suffered in silence because since she was not ready to disclose her status to her family, specifically her mother who was a strong support system during this trying time.

“With my partner behind bars, I was bound to get lonely so I sought company in the arms of another man.” She hung her head in shame, and then looked up, her eyes darted about avoiding direct eye contact before blurting out that she then fell pregnant again in 2012, a year after giving birth to her first baby.

It was after the birth of her second child that Seilaneng was introduced to the BOFWA outreach clinic in Tlokweng which got her started on Antiretroviral Therapy and family planning. While she was still trying to straighten out her life the father to her second born bailed on her the minute he discovered that she was pregnant and HIV positive.

Explaining how she proceeded to have unprotected sex despite her status she pointed out that it was a series of drunken sexual encounters with her partner in which condoms were not used. “After realizing the gravity of her situation and her less than perfect living conditions, I took a cautious decision to completely stop drinking and work towards raising my children,” she says with a twinkle in her eyes which could either be tears or a glimmer of hope.

Seilaneng finally opened up to her family regarding her HIV status to which her mother welcomed her with open arms. She said, “I have been on ARV therapy for six years through the BOFWA outreach program and I was also using the injection contraception which I stopped using earlier this year because it was not available at clinics, I then opted for the implant.” She shyly lifts up her sweater showing her underarm where the implant has been inserted and is changed every three years.

When the father to her first born returned from prison he claimed to have accepted her second born and wanted to resume the relationship which she willingly followed through since she had been with him before. As time went by she realized that prison had changed him drastically and was no longer the caring man she fell in love with but was rather a violent man who not only beat her to a pulp but threatened her with a knife as well. “This was when I went and reported him to the police seeing as he became violent at the slightest provocation or none at all.”

Seilaneng attributed all her personal changes to the hand that life dealt her. Her daily hassles motivated her to wake up and join the Ipelegeng program to which she said, “I get P500 a month and  can buy my children food and clothes, if I don’t get up to go and work no one will give me that money.” Going forward she would like to see herself being independent and opening a business through the use of Government policies and making sure that her children never go to bed hungry. She has sworn off men for the time being and is working on fixing herself and building a future for her children.

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