Most days I think my helper ( I so don't like the word maid!) Thobile is under-rated and under-utilised. She's been with me for almost 4 years now and for the most part I've been very happy with her. She's young, finished high school and I sent her to do a couple of computer courses. At first I liked her because she loves Baby. I mean, she really, trully, bonded with her. When she first came, I worked as a business technology journalist working strange hours, and travelling all over the world and I could do that knowing that Baby was safe, secure and well-cared for.
Baby grew and eventually left to live with her mother. And I was not keen to lose Thobile even though I don't really need her as much. Well, yesterday afternoon I was chatting with her about HIV/AIDS and I learnt that she is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to ARV treatment. She knows how much treatment costs when accessed through private doctors vs public health care system, the advantages and disadvantages of accessing care at various hospitals across the city, the AIDS treatment options, the effects of the ARVs, and which questions to ask if you have symptomatic illness ( e.g, TB, pneumonia) but still need ARVs. And she's no shrinking violet either, and emphasised numerous times that the key is to ask the doctor what symptoms they observe( for opportunistic infections), what this means to your health, the treatment selection, side-effects and what the treatment will accomplish. "If they don't explain enough, then you have to read your @#$%*& file and find out what they've noted in there," she said.
Her knowledge and insight on the subject left me open-mouthed. And nope, she's not HIV positive and the reason she knows for a fact is because in addition to taking adequate protection, she tests EVERY 3 MONTHS, just to make sure. The tests are free at public hospitals and clinics, and all you have to do is show up. And she says, seeing all the HIV positive and sick people who go to the clinics reminds her that she needs to be careful.
And the reason she knows so much about treatment? She's one of the millions of South Africans who have had family and friends get HIV. She notes that a huge number of people in her life used to die from AIDS. Now many of them are on treatment, and she is learning from their experiences. She also attended a short course run by Soul City ( my OneLove campaign client) years ago. We didn't know each other then. How twisted is that?
Anyhoo, back to my point: I think her knowledge and experience is wasted as a helper, and I'm going to have to do some thinking about how she better use her skills. The only downside is that her English is not very smooth, and professionally she could do with some presentation polishing. Ideas are welcome, by the way. BTW, for more information about HIV/AIDS and how to live positively, check out the OneLove web site. You can also check out this article on testing for HIV.