By SAM HINDELS, AMREF USA
Today is World AIDS Day, and yes, it is a world problem.
We all think that moms should stay healthy and babies should have a chance to survive and thrive. That’s why we are fostering this universal sisterhood. We are creating a world of one mother to another. Together, moms can make things better, in fact, already are!
In Kenya, 1 in 10 mothers carries HIV and is highly unlikely to know that she is HIV positive for years, Scholasticah Mutuku was one of them. She had heard the rumors about how deadly HIV was, but she was too afraid to find out her status. Living in the slums of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya – the social stigma was just too great.
Then she became pregnant.
For over a year Scholasticah had been meeting with an AMREF-trained community health worker (CHW), Kosmas Ongeri, who was finally able to convince Scholasticah that only if she knew her status – could she ensure there would be no transmission of the virus to her unborn child. Scholasticah visited the AMREF comprehensive care clinic in Kibera and found out that she was, indeed, positive. She immediately began therapy to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of the virus to her unborn baby. Her antiretroviral regimen also helped keep Scholasticah healthy.
When Scholasticah’s son Denis was born, he was immediately tested for HIV. Sadly, and surprisingly, the result came back positive. Devastated with the news, Scholasticah not only followed AMREF‘s guidelines to prevent Denis’ HIV from turning into AIDS, she began – through the training arm of AMREF’s project – to learn more about PMTCT and how she could help other mothers. Several months later, Denis tested negative. The HIV had not simply disappeared, the test had been a false positive to begin with, one of the agonizingly painful facts associated with the complex nature of this disease.
Eight years later, Scholasticah not only continues to ensure the health and well being of her own child – she has also become a teacher in the community helping other mothers learn steps to prevent transmission of the HIV virus. Together, they spread the word about the importance of early testing, intervention, and support in order to stop to the spread of HIV.
Around the world each year about 400,000 children under the age of 15 become infected with HIV, primarily through mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). About 90% of these infections occur in Africa. In the developed world, MTCT has been virtually eliminated, thanks to effective voluntary testing and counseling, access to antiretroviral therapy, safe delivery practices, and the widespread availability and safe use of breast milk substitutes. If these interventions were more readily available in Africa, they could save the lives of thousands of children each year.
Please help us to continue supporting and training women like Scholasticah. Together we are helping mothers help themselves.
Take Action: Visit AMREF on Global Giving to find out how you can give back.