People especially in rural areas had doubts that a mother living positively can give birth to a baby who is HIV free. These kind of doubts have left a good chunk of innocent babies on a lifetime administration of ARV’s having born positive when possibilities of pure blood were hanging in darkness somewhere.
Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO), under a project called Investing for Impact Against Tuberculosis and HIV and AIDS which is being funded by Global Fund through Action Aid and Christian Aid, embarked on a mission of sensitizing the masses on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV – PMTCT to make sure that the next generation is HIV free.
This way, Support Groups, which are comprised of persons living with HIV, have been empowered to encourage expectant mothers and households to have their blood tested for HIV. They are well versed in issues of PMTCT and their awareness campaigns are yielding fruits.
A mother we shall call Chimango for fear of disclosing her children’s HIV status, narrates of contrasting fortunes. Chimango was diagnosed HIV positive in 2010, five years before her first born. During her first pregnancy, Chimango never heard anything about PMTCT. Her first born was born HIV positive.
Three years later, Chimango fell pregnant again but this time around, she is in contact with the Chifira Support Group of Traditional Authority (T/A) Malenganzoma in Nkhatabay district.
Chimango is three months fresh from labour and her second born who we shall call Tapokera, is HIV negative.
Chimango has been residing in South Africa with her husband and together they have six children. When she was expectant of Tapokera, she came to Malawi where she tested HIV positive and she was directly put into a PMTCT programme under the supervision of Chifira Support Group.
The mother group members continued with follow up visits to encourage Chimango on drug adherence during her pregnancy despite the resistance from her elder sister who was against their visitations.
A few months later, Tapokera announced her arrival on this planet and tested HIV negative much to the surprise and happiness of her mother and support group members. Now Tapokera is three months old and still negative and of course Bactrim is being administered on her to ensure she doesn’t contract the virus from her mother.
Things could have been worse for Tapokera though. Her brother, now three years old, is HIV positive after contracting the virus from her parents due to lack of knowledge of PMTCT during pregnancy, childbirth and lactation of Tapokera’s brother.
Chimango is also under intensive watch from Support Group members that she doesn’t default on ARV’s as this will be crucial in the survival of her daughter and her continued pure blood flow free of HIV.
Her husband doesn’t know of the latest events and she plans to tell him when she returns to South Africa. The status of her husband is not known and she was advised to encourage him to go for an HIV test.
Chimango is planning to return to South Africa but she is expected to be in Malawi for two years since her daughter is still on PMTCT programme and under hospital supervision.
“I’m really hoping that my daughter remains negative until she is out of the programme in the next two years and I feel so indebted to Chafira Mother Group,” Chimango said while breastfeeding her daughter.
At 26, Chimango now has six children. We hope Tapokera is her last.