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Wilson Moyo: "If it was easier to access documents, it would make our lives more bearable"

City of Johannesburg in South Africa.

A year and a half ago, *Wilson Moyo, 45, was a white-collar worker enjoying a comfortable life in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city. After fleeing the country for political reasons he is now homeless, jobless and living in a shelter in Johannesburg's inner city.

He is also HIV-positive, but with no documentation and no income, he has been unable to access antiretroviral (ARV) treatment or even consult a doctor. He is now facing a long wait to obtain the asylum-seeker papers that would grant him the same rights to treatment as a South African.

"I was staying in Bulawayo; I had my own house there and I was married with two kids, a boy and a girl. I'd been working as a credit controller for almost 17 years. Then I got involved in political activities and from that time my life was threatened. Some time last year, around May, when things got really bad, I decided to leave my country and come to South Africa.

"At that time I wasn't all that sick, but I thought at least it's better, in a foreign land, to know you're healthy, and I like to read a lot, so I was coming across these issues dealing with HIV and AIDS. I thought, let me just go and check so I'm in a position to protect myself. I passed through Park Station [Johannesburg's central train station] one day and they'd put tents there for testing so I went in.

"It was a big shock [to learn my status], especially with all the problems I had by then. The place I was sleeping, we were staying three to a bed and I was used to having my own bed and my own things, so already I was stressed. I didn't tell anyone, even my family back home. The first people I told was when I went to a support group because there I met people who had the same problems like me.

"I was referred to Hillbrow Clinic [in an inner-city suburb]. I went to the reception and the clerk there said, 'Can I have your ID [identity document]?' and when I said I didn't have any ID, they said, go and bring it. I couldn't explain further because I knew I wouldn't get anywhere.

"After that I was disappointed, because I'd thought about it and found that this was not the end of the road, there was still life after HIV. The best thing was to fight on and get treatment and continue living a normal life, but the problem was how to get the proper documentation to get treatment.

"At that time I didn't even know there was asylum - I found out from the support group. They told me about how the permit allows you the same rights as a citizen, including the right to treatment. I tried to go to [the Department of Home Affairs in] Pretoria on several occasions, but it was so difficult because the queues were so huge.

"I once slept there for three days, having nothing to eat and without having washed. The last day, when I was number eight in the queue, I was pulled out by these guys who were getting bribes from people. They said I should give them R100 (US$15) to be in that queue, which I didn't have.

"I started not to feel well, so I tried Johannesburg Hospital but they told me I needed to be referred from Hillbrow Clinic. You have this fear that if you tell them the truth they will call the police.

"My hope is that if the situation at home can change, at least I'm a qualified somebody there. If I was there doing a good job, I could pay for ARVs. Here, even if I'm documented, I'll end up doing menial work because most people here, they detest foreigners; it's very unlikely I'll get a job that demands my skills and experience."

*Not his real name


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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