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'It feels good to be normal' - after HIV drugs nightmare

By Lerato Moeketse | 2012-06-28 07:03:46.0

AFTER struggling for years to get help from local hospitals, Mavis* finally underwent a bilateral breast reduction.

Mavis's breasts grew abnormally large, and long due to side effects from antiretrovirals (ARVs).

The condition is known as lipodostrophy and is recognised through changes in fat reduction or redistribution - often in one area - leading to an abnormal body shape.

Mavis, who was forced to quit her job as a result of her grown breasts, finally has a reason to smile.

Prior to the latest intervention, Mavis was turned away from the Charlotte Maxeke and Chris Hani-Baragwanath public hospitals in Johannesburg.

Mavis was originally given a date for treatment, but this appointment was postponed more than twice because of staff shortages.

The tearful woman told Sowetan: "I am so relieved and happy. It feels good to be normal again. I don't know how to explain the joy I have inside, but I feel so blessed."

Last Friday Mavis, 29, from Ekurhuleni, was admitted to Charlotte Maxeke hospital after Sowetan highlighted her plight.

After the report, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi ordered that she be assisted.

In 2006 she was diagnosed with HIV and developed ARV-related side effects that affected her mobility. Mavis could not walk for two years.

"In 2008, my breasts started growing rapidly and got heavy, making life difficult for me."

After the department said the case was not a priority because it was not "life threatening", Mavis received an apology from Gauteng health MEC Ntombi Mekgwe.

Mekgwe said: "I feel as a department we did not respond properly. We should have shown a caring attitude. We can't ask questions if a person says 'I am suffering from something'. We need to check as to how far we can assist."

Mavis was due to be discharged from hospital on Wednesday 27 June.

"I am so excited and looking forward to going home. I can't wait to be home, to go out with friends and enjoy my life."

*Mavis is not her real name.


This article was first published in the printed newspaper 27 June 2012