Nomafu Booi, 39, an HIV counsellor at Medecins Sans Frontieres in the Western Cape has been living with HIV for ten years and believes that she will live to see PLHIV supported, recognised and involved in day to day activities affecting any citizen of South Africa.
Nomafu is involved in a soccer league called Halftime! This league is made up of male and female teams from South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The tournament aims to bring together people living with HIV (PLHIV), and to raise awareness about the situation of that people living with HIV face. She sees the universally popular sport of soccer as a way of bringing people together, but that South Africa’s FIFA World Cup was a missed opportunity by the Government to raise awareness of issues around HIV.
Nomafu says, “We have realised how FIFA World Cup excluded PLHIV. There was no mention of what the people living with HIV g ggo through, even in the time when almost everyone on the African continent and the world was celebrating the glorious sport of millions. Halftime! football tournament has helped us to prove to the world that with their funding support and good treatment, we are capable of doing everything just like everybody else. We were we able to motivate and interact with people from different countries and learnt the importance of staying fit. Yes we had fun but our main aim was to get the message across and let our voices be heard about what we would we like to see happen going forward.”
She adds that staying in shape and exercising was never something she enjoyed before, but eating healthy food was a must for her even before she discovered she was HIV positive. However, with her team, Siyaphila (which means ‘staying alive’ in isiXhosa) she learnt that when you are fit and energised you are less likely to get sick. Nomafu says, “Siyaphila always kept the fighting spirit alive and our daily training for the soccer tournament was the same as keeping the spirit of a positive mind each and every day about our status. With the help of Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) we learn more each day about HIV”.
“Not every person who is infected believes that ARVs can assist their immune system. I always have to use myself as a example to convince them that I am healthy and fit because of ARVs and healthy food,” says Nomafu.
However she says even though she is able to get through the patients she meets at her work about HIV, she couldn’t reach out to the father of her 10 year old child.
“My boyfriend of five years couldn’t live with the fact that I was HIV positive. Having to raise my baby on my own I had to put my life and my baby first”, says Nomafu. “But with my church and family’s help, there was never a day I felt isolated and alone. I always knew they had my back. To those who think being infected is a dead end, it is time for them to learn to embrace each day and stop limiting themselves because it is not over yet,” Nomafu concludes with a smile.