Nomdumiso* is the first person that I ever met in Freedom Park, a local squatter camp. She escaped her violent husband and fleeing with her two young children she came to Rustenburg, our town, to try and find work in the mines. When she arrived she found that she couldn’t be hired because her government papers were not in order and she wasn’t able to prove her nationality.
Desperate to feed her children, she began to sell her body to “boyfriends” who worked in the mines. Over time she learned that she had contracted HIV. Her “boyfriends” would no longer pay to sleep with her because she had the unspoken disease.
The women of the squatter camps call AIDS “our disease,” expressing their grief at the way that this disease has devastated their lives, families and communities.
Nomdumiso now works as a volunteer to educate other women in her community about how to prevent AIDS and how to live with it after they’ve contracted it. Freedom Park is made up of many single mothers with AIDS who are struggling to find a way to support their children. Mothers dying and leaving children with no one to care for them is a common occurrence in South Africa.
*Name has been changed