|Chloe reading Chapter 4 to Nomsa under the tree at the hospital.|
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Chapter 5: What are those girls doing?
Last week when I met with Nomsa she told me a story that made me physically nauseous. I went home and told Ian about what she said and he was speechless, then he said, “What kind of a man would do that?” I spent the week thinking and processing what Nomsa told me, and today when we met again I asked her to confirm her story. Then I asked her permission for me to share it with you, our reader. Nomsa reads every word that I write and she has allowed me to tell very private stories of her life, but this one was different. I didn’t want to get her in trouble, on the off chance that someone she knows reads my blog. She is a brave young woman and said, “YES! Tell them. It is the truth!” And so I will.
As we sat under the tree outside the hospital told me this story.
“Janine, you know, not everyone has family or friends who will come and visit them. Many people here never get a visitor. I think people are scared to come and visit in case they too become infected. The lucky people, like me, have a visitor who will come to encourage them, but also bring good food to eat. They feed us here, but we need more protein. We need more food because of all the medication we take and because we are so sick. Some of the girls don’t get extra food so they become more vulnerable to “predators”.”
I thought to myself, more vulnerable? These women are all in advanced stages of HIV/AIDS AND they have Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis AND they are in a remote hospital that no one wants to visit AND they are there for 8-24 months. Vulnerable to predators?
“Some of the men who are sick here will tell their friends on the outside that there are women here who need food. Just the other day a man came with some fresh fruit and gave it to my friends. They disappeared for a while and then came back. I wondered ‘what are those girls doing?’ Janine, they had sex with that man! For fruit!
“Hey Janine, it happens a lot, but the girls don’t have much choice. They want to live. The best price that is paid is KFC Chicken. That one is the best I am told. Can you believe it? They have no hope. They have lost all hope for their future and it makes me so sad.”
Nomsa shook her head and looked down to the ground. While she could understand the desperation of young women, she really couldn’t get her head around how desperate they really were. And what about the men? What kind of man would bring chicken or fruit to a patient who is dying of HIV/AIDS and highly infectious Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis to have sex with them? Really?? Stop for a moment and think about that one if you would.
I am thankful for Nomsa and her courage to speak the truth even when she doesn’t want to speak it and I don’t want to hear it. I said goodbye to her today, as I won’t see her for the next month because of my upcoming trip to the US. Her tears brought tears to my eyes and we hugged and committed to pray for each other. Imagine? She is praying for me as I travel back to the United States of America to share with people who have ears to hear what is really happening here in Swaziland. I will stay in nice accommodations, eat nice meals, ride in nice cars and laugh with friends and family. Meanwhile Nomsa sits in a hospital alone, with people dying all around her and waits to get her most recent TB Culture test back. If it is NEGATIVE she can leave the hospital when I get back at the end of April. If it is POSITIVE she starts back at the beginning of a two-year treatment for a disease that wants her dead.
We are committed to praying for each other. I can’t honestly say that if I were in her shoes that I would pray for my friend who was going off to the “land of the free, home of the brave”. I think I would be selfishly be praying for myself. But that is what makes Nomsa different than anyone else I know. She cares about others. She wants to change her future and she knows that it starts by her actions in the present.
Nomsa inspires me and challenges me. I look forward to being back in Swaziland at the end of April to see her again, and hopefully to bring her “home”.