July Letsebe in South Africa
“Just eight years ago, July Letsebe was lying on his bed, seriously ill and waiting to die. But thankfully, after discovering he was HIV positive, he was given the right medication, is now healthy, and is helping others to access life saving treatment.
When July first became ill, he refused medical treatment and instead sought the advice of a healer – a common practice in rural parts of South Africa. But after a few months, he was bedridden and barely able to move. He felt desperate. “I asked my family to help me die, but they refused,” he says.
One day, a team of carers from a local project, the Waterberg Welfare Society, visited July’s tiny shack. When they saw how ill he was, they offered to drive him to the government clinic once a day for medical care. At the clinic, July received life-saving treatment for tuberculosis and also discovered that he was HIV positive.
In an incredibly brave step, he decided to reveal his HIV status at a local community event to encourage others to get tested. “People were shocked,” he says, “I could see the expression of disbelief in their faces.”
As he slowly recovered, July started training to become an HIV counsellor so that he could help other people who are living with the virus.
“AIDS does not actually kill people – lack of knowledge about it does,” says July, who manages Stepping Forward, a Comic Relief-funded HIV project in Vaalwater, South Africa. And, as someone who has lived with HIV for almost ten years, he knows what he’s talking about.
Today, thanks to HIV medication, July is healthy and is making sure that other people in remote rural areas of South Africa have access to life-saving HIV testing and treatment.”