Patience. (Photo: EGPAF, 2012)
When I was pregnant with my son Josphat in 2003, I took an HIV test during an antenatal clinic visit, and I found out I was HIV-positive. I immediately enrolled in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV program, where I began learning about HIV and how best to look after myself and my unborn child.
I felt ashamed and alone, and decided not to disclose my status to anyone. My feelings gradually led me into a deep depression. Then, a concerned PMTCT counsellor introduced me to a support group that helped me to come to terms with how to live positively with HIV. I met other mothers who had successfully been through PMTCT services. Their experiences gave me motivation and the belief that I would be able to protect Josphat from the virus as well.
During pregnancy and after Josphat’s birth, I followed PMTCT guidelines closely. At 18 months, Josphat was tested and found to be free of HIV.
I eventually persuaded my husband to get tested as well, but he never went back for the results. Four years after his test, he passed away. Since his death, I have disclosed my status to my mother-in-law, with whom I now live. She is so supportive of me and Josphat.
Since Josphat’s birth and learning of his HIV-negative status, I’ve continued to attend support group sessions, and I’ve maintained having regular check-ups at the hospital. I’m an advocate so other women understand that being HIV-positive is not the end. Josphat and I are proof that an HIV-positive woman can have a healthy HIV-negative baby.
Patience is a trained home based care giver and a very active support group member. She works with two groups of about 50 and 33 people of whom 20 and 6 are men. She says, “Men are accepting their HIV status more and more, especially when they see the advantages of treatment. Even condom distribution is going up.” Patience now supports herself and her children through making candles with a machine her husband purchased before he died.
Patience and Josphat making candles. (Photo: EGPAF/James Pursey, 2009)