A large chunk of our reporting focuses on HIV. Since the launch of Bhekisisa in 2013, we’ve covered HIV in-depth — from the impact of the virus on former president Nelson Mandela’s family to the advances in antiretroviral treatment and anti-HIV pills and injections. We’ve also looked at the impact of inequality and discrimination on the spread of HIV, the link between gender-based violence and HIV — and ways to fix it.
HIV infects CD4 white blood cells. Our brains have such cells too. When HIV gets to someone’s brain it causes inflammation and may lead to confusion.
But antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) can change that. The pills stop HIV from making copies of itself, so it reduces the amount of virus in someone’s body — mostly to such low levels that it becomes scientifically impossible to infect others.
ARVs, however, have to be taken for the rest of an infected person’s life, and that often leads to anxiety and depression. That’s why South Africa’s HIV plan says nurses should be allowed to prescribe antidepressants (and not just doctors) so that it becomes easier to get.
In this Health Beat episode, we visit Yvette Raphael, who has been taking ARVs for 23 years. We also speak to a psychiatrist, counsellor and HIV doctor to find out what’s the best way to cope with difficulties that come with having to take meds for the rest of your life.
Mia Malan is the founder and editor-in-chief of Bhekisisa. She has worked in newsrooms in Johannesburg, Nairobi and Washington, DC, winning more than 30 awards for her radio, print and television work.
As an SABC TV reporter in the Mandela years, Jessica Pitchford covered news events during one of the most exciting periods of South Africa’s history. She’s worked as a documentary producer for Special Assignment, story editor for current affairs shows Carte Blanche & Checkpoint, as head researcher for Netflix production ‘Senzo’ and has written five non-fiction books.