Annabella (right) with her mother and two sisters. (Photo: EGPAF)
Baby Kirabo tested HIV-negative after she and her mother received PMTCT services. (Photo: Geoff Ward)
With the help of medication, Annabella is living a healthy life. (Photo: Geoff Ward)
Annabella lives with her mother and two sisters in a small mud house in southwestern Uganda. Her home is surrounded by banana trees, rolling hills, and grasslands dotted by cows.
This idyllic setting belies the adversity that Annabella and her family face. Annabella’s father died due to complications from AIDS. Not long before her father’s death, Annabella discovered that she too is HIV-positive, as did Annabella’s mother, who was pregnant with her third daughter.
Fortunately, Annabella and her mother, Allen, have access to the clinic at Kabale Hospital that is supported by the Foundation. After they discovered their HIV status, Annabella began taking lifesaving medications to treat her illness. At the hospital’s antenatal clinic, Allen received the medication she needed to help prevent the transmission of HIV to her baby daughter, Kirabo.
A few months later, little Kirabo was tested and the test showed that she was HIV-negative. Annabella was responding well to her HIV treatment. For the first time, Allen began to feel a sense of hope.
Annabella is now an active member of a children’s support group at Kabale Hospital called the Ariel Club — named in memory of Elizabeth Glaser’s daughter Ariel, who died of AIDS. And Allen is vice chairperson of the Family Support Group. This group, also started by the Foundation, helps women living with HIV and their families to deal with many issues relating to HIV/AIDS, including disclosure of their status.
Hope springs eternal for Annabella and her family. It won’t always be easy. But thanks to a mother’s love and persistence and professional hospital care, Annabella and little Kirabo have a hopeful future.
UPDATE: Nearly four years after Annabella discovered her HIV status, she and her family are doing well. Annabella is now 14 years old. Thanks to the Foundation's social support program, she recently began attending a better school and has greatly improved her English skills. Her health has also improved and she continues to take antiretroviral medications (ARVs) to control her HIV. Annabella has attended two Ariel Children's Camps.
Annabella's mother, Allen, is also healthy and taking ARVs. She is an active peer educator at Kabale Regional Referral Hospital, where she counsels other mothers living with HIV and ensures that mothers and their babies receive HIV testing and treatment.
Annabella's baby sister, Kirabo, is three-and-a-half years old and healthy. She recently started nursery school.