Sami, a young 26 year old Xhosa man, was referred to Helderberg Hospice in Cape Town South Africa in 2011 with HIV and Miliary TB, as well as chronic renal failure. At the time, he was living with his mother in an informal structure which he owns.
When he was referred, he was very weak and frail, mostly due to renal complications. As staff members developed a trusting relationship with Sami, he shared with them that he was living as a transgender person. He often felt stigmatised and looked down upon by the wider community. He was also very afraid to talk about his lifestyle with his mother, for fear of how she might react.
With the counselling and support of Hospice staff, he disclosed his HIV status to his mother, and told her about his lifestyle, and she was very supportive in helping him with his treatment. Being a very intelligent, extroverted and pleasant young man, he strived towards improving his health, and was compliant with taking all his medication. This meant that he successfully completed TB treatment after 9 months, and continued on HAART (Highly active antiretroviral therapy).
The Hospice team, including home-based carers, nurses and social workers, continued to visit Sami on a regular basis, to provide him with support and keep him motivated towards becoming physically and emotionally stronger. He was invited to attend a community HIV support group, run by Hospice, and flourished in this group from the first time he attended. He was able to share with the group about his lifestyle, and found this to be a safe space without judgement. He was such an asset to the group, and spent much time uplifting the group with his stories of struggle and success.
Before long, Sami had informed the staff he would no longer be attending the group, as he had found employment at a hairdressing salon. But Sami wanted more out of life, and eventually found permanent employment with a security company.
Sami regularly makes contact with the carers and the social worker to let them know how well he is doing. His CD4 count has improved dramatically, and he is so excited to tell us each time when his CD4 goes up and the viral load goes down.
He is well integrated back into society after many struggles, both health-wise and socially. When driving past Sami, he waves proudly, and always greets with a big smile. He always mentions how grateful he is to Hospice staff for their care and support throughout the past 3 years. He lives as an example to us all, of how to rise up from the challenges of life and to be a proud citizen, who not only was willing to receive help when needed, but can now give back to society in his own special way.