Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lonely in a crowd of 100

Queen [not her real name] worked on the streets as a commercial sex worker for over 21 years. At 13 years old she was raped by 7 unknown men. She ran away from home and lived by prostitution. Many years later when we found her she was very thin, but able to walk and able to come to meetings. This photo was taken in the premises of an HIV center, where we hoped she would be admitted for HIV treatment, but she was rejected.

We took her back to Durban and put her up in a shelter. At the shelter there are about 100 men and women staying in double bunks all together, including women with babies and whole families. There is no privacy.

Last week when we visited her in the shelter she was dying- but not from HIV but from thirst. With 100 people around her, no one cared enough to get her water from the tap. She was almost unconscious but when she saw Steve [Blomefield], and he held her hand, she started to cry. In the midst of a crowd of people she was utterly alone and in deep despair. Then I came to her and she began to tell me her story, I burst into tears. Steve and I rushed her to hospital [ambulances take 5 hours to come]. In hospital she was put on a drip as she was highly dehydrated. In spite of being in the terminal stages of AIDS, she was 'discharged' the next morning by the hospital. She had no strength to walk home.

She is too weak to line up to get her medicine. She simply cannot stand up long enough, waiting for the queue at the hospital to finish, so she gives up and goes home. Neither are we allowed to take her medicine for her.

Fig. 2 Queen When stronger

Right now she is dying of hunger as she has no appetite. Her arms are being shaped, not by flesh but by the bones of her arms. She is weak but she is able to eat the Chinese noodles we buy her that are cooked by adding boiling water. She lies in bed at the shelter, paid for by House of Life Ministries each day. At some point the desire to die will be greater than the desire to live, and from that point the end will come quickly.

However she has hope, because she has surrendered her life to the Lord, and is a born again Christian. When her suffering ends, her life in glory will begin.

Fig. 3 Queen in the last stages

In South africa, 25% of adults are HIV positive, and nearly 100% of commercial sex workers are. They also have sexually transmitted diseases of various kinds. Most commercial sex workers have been raped by close relatives or family friends. Then they go and work as commercial sex workers in order to live.

Petra Luna
House of Life Ministries

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