Thu Oct 27 16:52:25 SAST 2016

A 14-year-olddiscovers the truth about her family and Aids - and grows stronger, writes Sibongile Mkani

By unknown | Mar 29, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Fourteen-year-old Anathi Mkonzi began to suspect that she was HIV-positive while doing an HIV-Aids school project. Then a simple question addressed to her aunt, who looks after her, solved a mystery that had puzzled the little orphan for eight years.

Fourteen-year-old Anathi Mkonzi began to suspect that she was HIV-positive while doing an HIV-Aids school project. Then a simple question addressed to her aunt, who looks after her, solved a mystery that had puzzled the little orphan for eight years.

Anathi was only six years old when her mother, Nontombi Mkonzi, died of HIV in 1998. Nontobi had told no-one about her status until her dying days. Anathi was never told of what illness her mother had died.

She was taken into the care of her aunt, whom she says loves and regards as her new mother.

Anathi is a bright, outspoken and polite little girl with bright brown eyes who loves to sing.

Her aunt is her mother's elder sister. She is strict and plain- spoken but also "the best mom I could ever ask for", said Anathi.

While Anathi was growing up, she did not ask about her mother's sickness.

When she asked about her father and his death she was never given a straight answer.

"I last saw my father when my mother was still alive, before she got too sick. I hated my father for abandoning me. Every day I waited for him to visit me or phone. Then I found out that he had died a year after my mother," said Anathi.

It was after she found out about her father's death that Anathi began to suffer from a series of minor sicknesses. And she became increasingly intent on finding out what had killed her parents.

"When I was about eight my aunt started giving me tablets that she said were vitamins.

"Then I started getting sick more often, like having a cold that would last longer than with other people, and I started having rashes and sores, which made my aunt worry and panic.

"Every time I got sick my aunt would immediately take me to a special doctor for children. Blood was always drawn from me and the doctor would tell my aunt not to worry," said Anathi.

When Anathi was in grade7 she took a lot of interest in HIV-Aids projects at school and started reading about the virus and how it was contracted.

After reading books about the symptoms of HIV-Aids, she recognised her own condition and remembered how her sick mother had looked before she died.

"I started putting two and two together and I asked my older cousin if he knew what had killed my parents. I told him about what I read, and that I suspected that I was HIV-positive and that my parents had been killed by HIV. He laughed and brushed me off, telling me that I was wrong," said Anathi.

Anathi's cousin told their aunt about Anathi's questions and her suspicions about her status.

Anathi did not know that her cousin had told their aunt of the way her thoughts were turning, but she asked her aunt to help her with an HIV-Aids school project. The project was about how babies and children get HIV?

When she asked her aunt questions about HIV-Aids, her aunt asked her why she was so interested in HIV and why every time she was assigned a school project it was about the virus.

"Before I could answer my aunt's questions she answered mine. She told me how babies got HIV - and about my status and how I got the virus.

"She said that my mother loved me as much as she also does.

"After she had confirmed my suspicions, tears ran down my face. I felt empty, relieved, happy, confused, angry and sad.

"I hated her for not telling me sooner, I hated my mother for giving me this virus, I hated my father for giving us a death sentence.

"I did not want to go to school - why should I, because I am going to die anyway?

"I do not have a future. I hated my friends because they had everything I did not have and most of all I hated life.

"I wanted to die there and then. But my aunt changed my life and the way I saw it.

"She told me that I have lived with the virus for the 14 years and she has made sure that I get whatever I need when I am sick and that she will never let me die or lose hope because one day there will be a cure for HIV," said Anathi.

"When I was growing up I attended the best schools and had everything a child could ask for.

"I knew I had lost my mother, but I had a mother in my aunt and I grew up surrounded by many people who loved me. I never felt that I did not have my parents.

"I've got lots of uncles who play my father's role.

"I am not taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) yet and do not know when I'll have to take them. But for now I am living my life as a healthy, normal teenager.

"All my cousins know my HIV status and some of my friends, but they do not believe me, which is understandable because I also did not believe that a healthy-looking 14-year-old could be HIV-positive," said Anathi.

lHIV - the human immunodeficiency virus; it attacks the immune system;

lAids - acquired immune deficiency syndrome;

lARV - antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) are medicines that kill the HI virus in the blood;

lHow do babies contract the virus? Usually from their mothers.

lHow can HIV-Aids be prevented? Mothers taking Nevirapine or ARV medication during their pregnancy can reduce the the disease.

Names have been changed


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