“Without TAC I don’t know where I would be in life”
50-year-old Francinah Chauke joined the Treatment Action Campaign when she was a young woman of 34, back in 2007 after she tested HIV positive on her third pregnancy. Francinah was living with her brother at the time who threw her out of the household when she disclosed her status to him.
Alone, pregnant, with two children, and unemployed, Francinah had nowhere to go. Luckily a friendly nurse at her local clinic provided her and her children with shelter.
“At the time we thought a person who tested HIV positive would die. We were told to eat carrots and vegetables with little room available to get treatment. It took months before someone got treatment and one would be added to a treatment waiting list that took anything from four to seven months before receiving treatment.” She explained.
With an extremely low CD4 count of 59, Francinah could not afford to wait for long before she was initiated on ARVs. At Mariven Clinic, her local nurse made arrangements for her to receive treatment quicker and she soon started on ARVs. One day during her clinic visit Francinah listened intently to a member of TAC giving a talk on treatment literacy. This in depth education on HIV/AIDS and how treatment suppresses the virus captured her attention.
Lawrence Mbalati, a TAC member was facilitating the workshop and he made a call out for anyone wanting to volunteer for TAC to come forward. That is when she took the chance and became a TAC volunteer.
“It was the way he was talking about the treatment and what it does in your body that captured me, he sounded like he knew what he was talking about and that made me want to be able to do the same and help others,” explained Francinah.
For 3 months Francinah worked as a TAC volunteer before being fully employed as a treatment literacy practitioner afterwards. “Before TAC I had nothing, nowhere to go and very low self-esteem, but now I am a well-respected member of my community, the salary I earn at TAC has helped me buy myself a four roomed house where I live with my children. All my children are at school. But most importantly I am now able to help others that were in my situation. I love my work, without TAC I don’t know where I would be in life. TAC has taught me so much about not only how to manage my health but about my human rights and now I am able to do the same for others.”
By Mary-Jane Matsolo
Francinah is a member of TAC Khujwana branch in Limpopo. We have more than 230 branches across seven provinces in South Africa. To become a TAC member call the National Office on 021 422 1700 to find out where your local TAC branch is.