Lungile. (Photo: James Pursey)
My name is Lungile, and I am 22 years old. In 2009, while pregnant with my first child, I tested positive for HIV. At the time, I felt so healthy that I didn’t think that it was possible for me to be HIV-positive.
Upon hearing the news, I wasn’t that upset. I shrugged. “It’s just life,” I told myself. Many people are HIV-positive, and they stay healthy if they take care of themselves.
Telling my husband was very painful for both of us. He accepted my status and was supportive. He also agreed to come with me for another test, because I still didn’t believe the first result.
My husband was nervous when we arrived at the health center. He changed his mind about having an HIV test. Only after the health counselors talked to us and explained the importance of both parents knowing their status did he agree to take the test. When both our tests came back positive, I finally believed that I was living with HIV. Accepting the truth was very painful.
We received post-test counseling, and this made us feel better. I was given medicines to take for the remainder of my pregnancy, and to use when I went into labor. These prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) medicines would help lower the chances of passing HIV on to my baby.
Over the next few months, I did not return to the clinic as often as the counselors wanted. The clinic is far from my home – more than an hour’s walk under the hot sun. I was pregnant and tired, and did not have money for transportation.
Nearer the birth, I moved to my parent’s home in Mbabane and I gave birth to a son, Thembelihle, at the nearby government hospital.
After Thembelihle was born, I continued to follow PMTCT guidelines and breastfed him exclusively for six months. He was tested for HIV twice, and both times he was negative. I am so happy and thankful. I may be HIV-positive – but because of PMTCT, my son is not!
Thembelihle was 15 months old when I discovered I was pregnant again. I was very angry, and I worried about giving my unborn child HIV. I felt lucky that my first child was HIV-free, but a lot of children become infected with HIV and die. How could I be lucky twice?
During my second pregnancy, I listened much more closely to the nurses at the clinic. I was determined that my second child would not be HIV-positive, but I still couldn’t visit the clinic very often because of the distance between my home and the clinic.
My daughter, Malwande, was born 11 weeks ago. She was tested at six weeks, and is HIV-negative. I am so relieved. PMTCT works!
I want to give thanks to the HIV prevention and care and treatment program. It saved the lives of my children, and has educated me about how to stay healthy.