Junior minister Peter Power with Evelyn Ramorele in Lesotho

Evelyn Ramorele welcomed minister of state Peter Power into her humble home last Friday with more dignity than one would expect of a 49-year-old woman ravaged with HIV/Aids.

She had dressed up for the occasion, decked out in a red blouse and patterned skirt with a bright yellow sun-hat pulled down over her limp hair. She was making a big effort, because it's not every day that a foreign minister comes knocking on her door.

And during the course of the late-morning visit, she spoke frankly about the deadly virus with which she's riddled.

In 2000 Ramorele's doctor began treating her for pulmonary TB. Though it is a symptom that is ubiquitous in people with HIV/Aids, the virus went undetected for the next three years; by the time the correct diagnosis was made, Ramorele was at death's door.

She was in her early 40s, and instead of enjoying her prime as a woman, she was a widow with four children. She had no income and little hope, because she was now harbouring a deathly burden that had taken its toll on South African life.

Since the first case was reported in the United States 30 years ago, Aids has devastated the continent of Africa. In South Africa, a country with one of the highest Aids rates in the world, some 5.7 million – or one in five of the adult population – have Aids. The pandemic is expected to claim 1,000 lives every day this year alone. In crude terms, approximately three South Africans will have died from the disease in the couple of minutes it will take you to read this article.

But two events helped bring Ramorele back from the brink in 2003: the anti-retroviral drugs which were prescribed to her; and Charity, the home-based carer who was assigned to help her back on her feet and nudge her, physically and mentally, towards a better life.

Seven years on, Evelyn Ramorele says she couldn't imagine life without her helper, flashing a big smile in Charity's direction as she says so. She's not exaggerating when she says she probably wouldn't be alive without her. Charity nods her head slowly in agreement.

Charity is there to administer her round of medicine three times a day. She talks to her, bathes her, ensures she's getting enough nutrients and regularly reminds her when her medication needs to be changed.

"She's like one of the family," Ramorele says. "She cares for me as if she were my daughter. She's like one of us."

Listening to them talk, they are a pair who put a new kind of human face on the HIV/Aids crisis. Though a cure is still a long way off, they have shown that it is as possible to live with Aids as to die from it today.

"I now tell them at the clinic that if there are people who fear they will die from the disease, come and talk to me, that I'm an example that you can live," says Ramorele.

All told, about 700 patients are receiving home-based care from Charity's colleagues in the province of Limpopo today, all of them seriously ill or in the advanced stages of terminal illnesses, while 276 of them are, like Ramorele, people with HIV/Aids.

Irish Aid has been supporting the home-based carers for a number of years. In 2008, €400,000 was allocated to the project. It survived the budget cuts last year and another €400,000 was granted.

"It gives me huge pride to know that we, Irish Aid, are supporting these people and producing these results," Power later told the Sunday Tribune during his visit to South Africa this week.

"It allows me to go home, with my hand on my heart, and tell the government and the people of Ireland that their taxes are being very well spent," he said. "That the people of Ireland are making a difference."