Umgungundlovu — Thabile* is a 19-year-old mother of two who gave birth to an HIV positive baby, Andiwe, two months ago.
Thabile only started her antenatal care when she was 20 weeks pregnant because she was not aware that she was pregnant. This is also when she discovered that she was HIV positive.
If she had discovered her HIV status earlier, health workers would have advised her to start treatment with antiretroviral drugs at 14 weeks of pregnancy.
During her pregnancy, Thabile says she took her antiretroviral medication as her nurse instructed her, which is AZT twice daily and a single dose of nevirapine when she was in labour. Nevirapine syrup was given to her baby after birth. But when her baby was six weeks old, she did a PCR test and her baby was HIV positive.
Thabile is only 19 years old, but Andiwe is already her second child. Her first born, Luvuno* is 3-years-old. Thabile dropped out of school when she was just 16 after falling pregnant with Luvuno and is currently not working. She had planned to study as a nurse this year – until she discovered that she was pregnant again.
She stays with her 45-year-old mother and her brother has just been sentenced to 15 years in jail, so she felt she couldn’t disclose her status to her mother when she discovered she was HIV positive. The fact that her children have different fathers, neither of them in her life and not paying anything towards the children, is a challenge on its own.
Asked how she feels and what the way forward is for her, Thabile said with all the support she is receiving from the Mothers2Mothers programme that supports HIV positive pregnant women and mothers, she is prepared to make sure her little baby adheres to treatment.
With the social grant money, she plans to send Luvuno to crèche. She has found the courage to disclose her status to her mother, who has turned out to be very supportive and she hopes to go back to school to further her studies and become a social worker.
* Not their real names.
Thandiwe Zamisa is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist based in Umgungundlovu district in KwaZulu-Natal.