Meet a Resident of Rustenburg: Thandi
Thandi lived six months. At five months she tested positive for AIDS.
There was no life in her eyes; you could tell by looking at her she wasn’t really there anymore. It was simply a matter of when.
Neighbors gave Thandi’s mother, Sara, a hard time because she didn’t use witchdoctors and muti, charms worn around the neck or waist for protection. But children who get the muti sometimes die, too.
Thandi got sick because of breast milk. “I think if Sara had known she was HIV positive she would not have breast fed Thandi,” said Mary Rhodes, a True Love Waits and Life Skills teacher. “That’s how it’s spread, through the milk. I think more testing throughout pregnancies would help, and if people were faithful in marriage.”
A month after Thandi’s death, Mary and Sara returned to visit her grave. Twenty more children’s graves extended beyond Thandi’s. “I think this happens a lot,” Mary said.
Meet a Resident of Rustenburg: Mary
Tall, steel shafts protrude from a dry landscape as children play soccer around platinum mine fields on the outskirts of Rustenburg. Miners walk to and from work in colored jumpsuits and gum boots.
Mary’s family moved from Lesotho to this town decades ago when platinum was discovered. They built a shack in the shantytown called Freedom Park Township. A township is an informal settlement of tin shack homes or government-provided brick houses. Some have running water and electricity but Freedom Park doesn’t. There are not enough stores, schools and clinics to meet the needs of the residents.
Mary grew up seeing her friends die of HIV/AIDS, which prompted her to become a nurse. Today she works in a makeshift clinic located near the center of the township. She visits HIV/AIDS patients, checking their health and making sure they take their medication.
“More than 2,000 people a day seek treatment for HIV/AIDS in Freedom Park,” Mary said. “We are sure there are more ¬– most are ashamed and will not get tested. It just keeps spreading.”