LIVING with HIV has made Khangelani Mese pay closer attention to her craft and influenced her to use more hygienic methods.
A sangoma in Bekkersdal on the West Rand, Mese, 39, encourages her patients to use condoms, be faithful to one partner and live a healthy lifestyle.
"Traditional healers used methods that were harmful and put their patients and themselves at risk of getting HIV, such as using the same blade to make incisions on different people. Now we wear surgical gloves and discourage patients, especially those with HIV, from vomiting," said Mese.
Mese has been on antiretroviral treatment since 2004 and regards herself as "living proof that HIV is not a death sentence".
Mese was speaking at a Candlelight Memorial for victims of HIV at the Westonaria Sports Complex.
A member of Sizabantu Traditional Healers and Home Based Care, a group that looks after those infected with the virus, Mese said many people were in denial of their status and practised risky behaviour.
"We encourage other traditional healers to spread the message about HIV. We also encourage patients to look after themselves and their partners. We tell them that by keeping quiet about Aids and their status, they are spreading death and killing themselves," said Mese.
Gauteng MEC for health Qedani Mahlangu said HIV prevention strategies should focus on preventing new infections.
"In 2008, for example, 122682 people tested HIV-positive at our facilities, of these 9465 were from the West Rand. It is clear that a lot of work still needs to be done to reduce new infections. We experience an HIV infection rate of about 250 people a day in Gauteng."
The International Candlelight Memorial was started in 1983 and is the largest grass roots mobilisation HIV-Aids campaign in the world.
It is usually held on the third Sunday of May every year.