A Return to Treatment, a Restoration of Hope
Regina Antony Paulo
Because of HIV, my husband and I have lost two of our children. It has been a sorrow like no other.
In 2002, I gave birth to our first child, a son, who is now a healthy adolescent. But during my second pregnancy in 2005, I became ill and weak with fungus all over my body. When I went to the hospital, nurses advised me to take an HIV test, but I did not follow their counsel. Four months into the pregnancy, I had a miscarriage.
In 2006, I finally took an HIV test and discovered that I had the virus. But I could not accept my HIV-positive status, so I did not take the prescribed antiretroviral therapy (ART), even though they were available at the Shinyanga Regional Hospital, which is not nearby. Instead I went to a traditional healer who said that my husband’s ex-wife had bewitched me for invading her household. Unfortunately, I believed that story and followed the healer’s treatment instead, and I remained sick.
In 2008, I became pregnant again. When I went to the hospital, the nurses insisted that I join a family planning program, adding that my husband also needed to come to the hospital. This time I listened. Both of us received family planning education and were tested for HIV. We found that my husband is also HIV-positive, and together we enrolled in a care and treatment program supported by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF). By then, the HIV drugs were available at a nearby district hospital, and it was easy for us to collect our monthly doses.
Although I took the prescribed ART during my pregnancy, my health was poor, and my baby was born with HIV. He passed away one year later.
When the nurses got the news about that death, they consoled me and advised me to continue with the family planning program, which I did. This made me rest and look after my health and the health of my son. I frequently visited the clinic for more family planning education and to check my CD4 count [which indicates the severity of HIV].
In 2010, during one of my family planning visits, I learned that my health was good and so was my CD4 count. I was told that I could try to have another child. My husband and I were ecstatic, and soon I was pregnant. My daughter was born without any complications and is HIV-free.
In December 2012, I became a lay counselor at the Meatu District Hospital care and treatment center. Working with the Ariel Glaser Pediatric AIDS Healthcare Initiative (AGPAHI), an EGPAF affiliate, I draw upon my experience as I advise other HIV-positive women to follow ART, rather than rely on traditional healers.
My husband and I continue our ART and are healthy—as are our 11-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. We are so grateful for the support that we have received from EGPAF and AGPAHI, especially in their efforts to return lost clients to care and treatment. They are restoring hope to people who have lost it.
This women’s history month, we’re celebrating empowered women making a difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Learn how you can get involved in EGPAF's effort to end pediatric HIV.