Elderly face up to HIV

WHEN Nomusa Nxasana found out she was HIV-positive her life changed forever.

The 58-year-old mother of one said she became infected while nursing her two cousins who had contracted the deadly virus 18 years ago.

It was her HIV-positive status that spurred her into joining a clarion call campaign to heighten awareness about the dangers and difficulties faced by grown-ups of living with the virus.

This campaign takes to the public when the Muthande Society for the Aged holds a dialogue at Tafelkop in northern Kwazulu-Natal on April 23. Older men and women will be encouraged to discuss their experiences about living with HIV-Aids.

Nxasana says: "When people look at me, an elderly person who is HIV-positive, they think badly of me. They don't know that I only got this disease from trying to help others who were infected.

"I didn't know then that I should have worn gloves when caring for them."

She says her experience had forced her to speak openly about the pandemic and share her experiences with others.

Nxasana says she was encouraged by speaking to other older people who are living with the disease.

Roselyn Mabaso, the director of the Muthande Society for the Aged, says HIV infections among the elderly are rife and rising.

"We are seeing more and more people becoming infected with the virus in townships around Durban."

According to a study carried out by the Human Sciences Research Council in 2008, the HIV prevalence in South Africa in the 50 to 54 years age group in males was 10,4 percent and 10,2 percent in females.

"Government's focus right now is on men who become infected with HIV. We want this focus to shift to include women. This will be in focus at the dialogue," Mabaso says.