Monica* is a young mother of 24 years who lives in the high density suburb of Nketa, Bulawayo with her husband and three children. Her life took a sudden turn in August 2017 when she tested HIV positive at Nketa clinic – her husband could not accept it, he became abusive.
I thought it was the end of my life
When she visited the clinic, Monica was 6 months pregnant and she thought all was well as she never had any problems with her health. “I was confident that I was HIV negative because I felt strong, I had never been sick before – the results I got from the clinic shuttered my hopes, I thought it was the end of my life.” Said Monica. “Although I received ARVs after the diagnosis, I never thought I would make it.” At first she became concerned about her future, “I feared that I would die and leave my children, I was also afraid of how my relatives and friends would accept
me after learning about my status.” Later she began to think about her husband, “Knowing my husband, I thought he would beat me to death accusing me of infecting him with the virus. How was I even going to plead my innocence?” Monica received counselling from the Social Worker at the clinic and she found the courage to disclose her status to her husband. True to her fears, her husband could not accept the result; he became violent threatening to divorce her for one of his many girl friends. He vowed never to get tested!
Referred to the young mothers support groups
“I never thought I would smile again in my life, I felt I was the only one in this predicament.” As she was referred to the young mothers support groups by the clinic, Monica was surprised that she was not alone after all. The Zvandiri Community Adolescent Supporter (CATS) welcomed her to the support group and introduced her to other young mothers who are also HIV positive. “These support groups changed my life; it was my first time to meet so many young mothers who are HIV positive, some of whom are in worse situations than mine.” At the support groups issues of getting tested early, adherence and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) are discussed. Young mothers are free to share their experiences encouraging each other to be strong for their families and Monica could not help but join in “I was surprised that I could also freely share my story – I felt strong and confident again!”
Happy and empowered
Monica gave birth to her third child through a caesarean section – a healthy baby girl! “My baby was tested at 2 weeks and she was HIV negative. I could not believe it and I could not wait to go back to the support group to share my story.” The CATS confirmed that through her story, Monica is now encouraging other young mothers to be strong and to adhere to their medication. “I am now a happy and healthy mother; I am empowered to negotiate for safe sex and I also know where to report when my rights are abused. As her husband continued to abuse her physically and emotionally, Monica was encouraged by the CATS to report him to the police where he was warned and cautioned. The police encouraged her to apply for a protection order in case the husband continued with his wayward behaviour.
The nurse in charge of Nketa clinic commented the work of the CATS in supporting HIV+ young mothers, she had this to say “the CATS is doing sterling work in supporting her peers to get treated and adhere to their medication. I am convinced that with this kind of support, a generation free of HIV is possible!”
*name changed to protect identity.