FRANCISTOWN, Botswana—Gagonthesepe has endured a lot in her young life: being born HIV positive, experiencing the death of her mother at age 5, and being forced to drop out of school because of a failing immune system.
But Gagonthesepe has never given up on herself. She has worked hard to overcome her obstacles, and at age 20, she’s now enrolled at a university in Francistown, Botswana, where she will pursue a degree in finance.
In 2005, Gagonthesepe arrived to her new home at the SOS Village in Francistown. Before she moved to the SOS Village, Gagonthesepe had been living with her aunt, who became her primary caregiver after the death of her mother.
The aunt, however, had 10 children of her own. She was unemployed and nursing a sick toddler. It was nearly impossible for her to provide Gagonthesepe the care and support she needed, especially because Gagonthesepe was HIV positive and had special medical needs.
Gagonthesepe was physically weak when she arrived to the SOS Village in 2005, the result of not receiving proper medical care.
Betty, Gagonthesepe’s SOS Mother, remembers the first days after meeting Gagonthesepe.
“I had to take her to hospital very often in the early days so that her condition could be stabilized,” Betty said. “The little one was very quiet, reserved yet well behaved at that time and it took her some time to make friends around here and become comfortable with us as her family.”
Gagonthesepe opens her Christmas presents at the SOS Village
Gagonthesepe remembers that her first bond was with Betty. She loved school and did very well from the beginning and also bugged Betty about her medication and taking it on time. “I also reminded my mother when it was time for check-ups,” says Gagonthesepe.
At 23 percent, Francistown’s HIV prevalence rate is one of the highest in the country. In Botswana, the HIV prevalence rate is 17 percent, one of the highest in the world. HIV is therefore a part of life at the SOS Village in Francistown and also one of the main causes leading to children being orphaned in Botswana.
Despite all these hurdles in her life, Gagonthesepe excelled in her education from primary to secondary school. She completed high school in 2015 and performed the best at the SOS Village among all seniors.
“Gagonthesepe has been a good example to all her siblings and friends and is proof of the fact that HIV is manageable and cannot prevent anyone from living the life one wishes for and fulfilling their dreams,” said Tlhabologo Motsamai, program director at the SOS Village in Francistown.
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