Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies

by Alive Medical Services
Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies
Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies
Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies
Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies
Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies
Stop the Spread of HIV from Mothers to Babies
Nancy
Nancy

Nancy* had a great childhood – she never lacked, went to the best schools and had the affection of her parents. As an adult, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, a postgraduate diploma in Monitoring and Evaluation and soon after landed a good job. Then her luck took a turn.

“In 2013, I dated a young man. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was cheating on me with many women. Upon finding out, I resigned from my job and decided to go get myself tested. When I received my HIV results and they were positive, I wanted to die. I walked aimlessly into the road with the hope that I would get knocked and die.”

“It took me two to three years to start taking the antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs because I didn’t trust any health centre. I continuously purchased septrin as starting the ARV’s themselves was my biggest fear.”

Not only was Nancy HIV positive, but she was also four weeks pregnant. “My boyfriend left me when I told him about the pregnancy. I then went home and told my parents about what happened. To my surprise, they were very supportive and stood with me through that trying time, prayed with me, and as if that wasn’t enough, they moved to Kampala to support and take care of me,” Nancy recounted.

“My journey with Alive Medical Services started in 2015 when my parents brought me to the clinic. One of the counsellors I met handled me with so much love and respect and put many of my fears to rest. One thing she asked me to do was to live for my unborn child.”

“At that moment I realized that if my parents were fighting for me, the least I could do is fight for my unborn child.”  In an attempt to not have to explain herself, Nancy bought a ring to disguise herself as married in the event her belly started to show. She started to look for work three months into her pregnancy. I took part in many part-time projects until I got one upcountry when I was six months pregnant.

Nancy carried on with the work until she gave birth in Lira - her hometown. After a month, she brought her daughter to AMS to get checked and to make sure she was safe. When she was discharged and diagnosed HIV negative, Nancy’s parents took the new-born and looked after her while she went back to work to fend for herself and the baby.

When asked about feeling stigmatized, Nancy mentioned that she faced a lot of stigma especially back in her home village. “When I shared with a lady I considered one of my good friends she went on to tell anyone who was willing to listen about my status. As a result, many of my friends stopped talking to me, and those that didn’t asked one question – is it true that you are sick?” she sadly narrated.

“But when I am at AMS, everyone treats me with dignity and respect. AMS has given me a home and hope to live with my status and feel encouraged.”

Today, Nancy is back on her feet, fending for both herself and her daughter; she’s gained stability both financially and emotionally. She hopes that her story will give strength to someone out there who has lost hope.

“I have registered a nursery school and day-care that I plan to open next year. I want to go back to my community back in Lira and give hope to others so they can move on and live a quality life.” Nancy concludes.

*Names, images and some details in this story have been changed to protect the identity of the client.

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Hadijah
Hadijah

When Hadijah realized she had HIV, she was just 23 years old. Hadijah was married, but had a feeling something was going on between her husband and one of his friends. Before she even started showing symptoms, she went to Alive Medical Services (AMS) to be tested for HIV.

“I was feeling fine, but for some reason, I knew I had HIV,” Hadjiah said. “When I sat down with the counsellor, when they pricked me for my blood… I just knew.”

Though she was disappointed, Hadijah tried to stay strong. She knew many people who had HIV, and those who adhered to their medication seemed healthy. If she could be like them, she thought, her life wouldn’t need to change.

Regardless, there was one thing Hadjiah was concerned about: having children. Now that she knew both herself and her husband were HIV positive, Hadijah worried that she would pass the virus to her babies. In her neighbourhood, Hadijah began noticing the people living with HIV who did not adhere to their medication. They lived a reluctant life, she said, and their health was clearly deteriorating. Determined not to follow the same path – both for herself and her future children – Hadijah diligently attended clinic visits, counselling sessions, and community outreaches hosted by AMS when she decided to get pregnant.

“The counsellors followed up with me and encouraged me to adhere to my medication, breastfeed my children, and live positively,” Hadijah said. “They also encouraged me to keep good company.”

A short time later, Hadijah gave birth to an HIV negative baby girl. Two years after that, she gave birth to an HIV negative baby boy. And more than 15 years later, Hadijah gave birth again – this time to a baby girl named Sembatya.

As of today, Sembatya has been tested twice with a DNA-PCR test, the method AMS uses to confirm HIV-exposed infants as HIV negative or positive. Six months after Hadijah finishes breastfeeding, Sembatya will be tested for a final time.

“I am confident Sembatya will be HIV negative,” Hadijah said. “And in the meantime, I will continue taking my medication on time, breastfeeding the baby, and praying for the best.”

Hadijah’s children are just two of over 670 babies confirmed HIV negative in AMS’ care. In the first six months of 2018 alone, we discharged 92 babies from our elimination of mother-to-child transmission program, confirmed 100% of these children HIV negative. In fact, since 2013, we haven’t had a single client in our care give birth to an HIV positive child, a success made possible by our provision of holistic pre-natal and post-natal services.

Thank you for your generosity and for keeping Alive Medical Services in your hearts.

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Christine accessing the antenatal care services
Christine accessing the antenatal care services

Currently aged 36, Christine came to Alive Medical Services when she was pregnant with her first child in 2009. She was very ill at the time and when she took the HIV-test and it turned out to be positive, she became disillusioned and asked the doctor to recommend an abortion.

Christine was afraid of passing on the virus to her unborn child hence thinking that an abortion would be a better choice. The doctor that attended to her advised against the idea and told her about the Alive Medical Services’ prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV programme which has transformed into the elimination of mother-to-child transmission (EMTCT) over the years. Since 2013, all pregnant women enrolled in our care have given birth to HIV-negative babies.

Christine was astonished by the possibility of her giving birth to an HIV-negative baby so she got the will to try. As she shares today, she has given birth to three HIV-negative and healthy children and expecting the fourth. All her children have been given birth to while she accesses the free antenatal and postnatal care under AMS’ EMTCT services. She attends at least four antenatal care visits, adheres to her medication, and makes sure that after pregnancy, she consistently brings her children for the early infant diagnosis (EID) services to make sure that their status remains negative.

“I am very glad that 8 years ago, Alive Medical Services renewed my hope in having an HIV-free generation,” Christine gleefully shares.

She wishes that all women all over Uganda and the world would access such services for free so that HIV is eradicated for good. She also does her part by sensitizing pregnant women in her community to know their status so that they can save the lives of their unborn babies.

Thanks to supporters like you, for you, make it possible for women like Christine to give birth to HIV-negative babies.

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Thanks to supporters like you, on January 30, 2018, Catherine’s second-born daughter was confirmed HIV negative.

A clinician smiled as she brought Catherine into the treatment room, embracing her to celebrate the good news. Ever since she realized she was pregnant, Catherine had worked hard to ensure the baby wouldn’t contract HIV. She received continuous support from AMS staff to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of the virus, and faithfully adhered to her medication.

“I’m so relieved,” Catherine said. The baby smiled in her arms, almost as if she was relieved, too.

The joy in the room was tangible. But it hadn’t always been this way for Catherine and her family.

When Catherine gave birth to her first-born daughter, she went to live with her mother and extended family in the village. As Catherine recovered from the delivery, her family helped her with the baby. Her husband stayed in Kampala to work – and during that time, he contracted HIV from another woman.

Catherine returned to Kampala after three months in the village, unaware of her husband’s infidelity or illness. She put all her time and energy into caring for her daughter. And when the two of them fell sick, she assumed it was a temporary bug, or at worst, malaria.

Catherine tested HIV positive at a health facility near her home. Her neighbour urged her to get another test at Alive Medical Services – and after her diagnosis was confirmed, the doctors tested Catherine’s daughter, who was also diagnosed HIV positive.

“I was shocked, but there was nothing to be done except to begin treating myself and my daughter,” Catherine said. “I convinced my husband to get tested, but he never accepted his diagnosis. For me, the only option was to stay strong for my child.”

Catherine has since separated from her husband, who refused to get treatment and was inhibiting Catherine’s own progress. By continuing to visit AMS for check-ups, Catherine’s viral load is suppressed, and her first-born daughter – now three years old – is stable and healthy. Catherine now works as a farmer in her village, where she grows fresh produce for her family and sells whatever is left. Your support of this project has helped women like Catherine and babies like Charity have a fresh start in life, something we are so grateful for.

“My advice to other HIV-positive single mothers is to do as much as possible to support your children,” Catherine said.

Thank you for keeping Alive Medical Services in your hearts! We greatly appreciate your generosity.


 

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In 2013, Mary came to Alive Medical Services for a check-up. She had a fever and was hoping to see a doctor, receive some medicine, and head back home. Mary thought she only had a passing illness, but just to be safe, she decided to be tested for a number of viruses anyway.

When the doctor returned with Mary’s results, he told her something she would never have imagined: Mary, though married for years to the same person, was HIV positive.

“I was in such a bad state,” Mary said. “I just came into the clinic to get checked for a fever, and then I found out I had HIV.”

Terrified her husband would blame her for the illness, she didn’t say a thing until he developed a rash on his arms. Mary insisted he get tested for HIV, and when her husband came home with a positive diagnosis, he told her the truth. He had cheated on Mary with an HIV positive woman.

At that point, Mary found out she was pregnant with her third child, the first to be conceived after Mary realized her positive diagnosis. She hurried to AMS as soon as she found out she was expecting.

“The doctors helped me maintain good adherence throughout the pregnancy, following up with me as the months went by,” Mary said.

Within months, Mary’s husband left her for someone else. Regardless of his repeated deceit, Mary stayed strong. She kept up with her medication, came to the clinic for frequent check-ups, and focused on delivering a healthy, HIV negative baby.

After nine months of pre-natal care at AMS, and a year-and-a-half of check-ups post-birth, AMS doctors confirmed Mary’s daughter, Lillian, was HIV negative.

Today, Lillian is nearly 2 years old. Mary is in good health, and continues to come to AMS for her antiretroviral medication and regular check-ins. In addition, her family receives treatment of other infections – opportunistic or otherwise – free of charge. Your support to this project has helped mothers like Mary overcome insurmountable challenges, and daughters like Lillian be born healthy and strong. 

This past quarter alone, we've provided 112 new clients with family planning services. We've reached 78 mothers with antenatal care. And we've successfully graduated 54 babies, including Lillian, from our prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV program. None of these successes would have been possible without the support of partners like you. We are so grateful for your generosity!

“At first, I was so worried about having HIV,” Mary said. “But today, I’m okay. I’ve accepted it. And I’m well aware that if I take my medication well, I’ll continue to live.”


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    Organization Information

    Alive Medical Services

    Location: Kampala - Uganda
    Website:
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    Twitter: @AMSUganda
    Project Leader:
    Pasquine Ogunsanya
    Founder and Executive Director
    Kampala, Uganda
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