May 2014

The Perfect Mother’s Day Gift

Created by:

Martha Cameron



My mother was my everything. She was constant, dependable, and she loved me and my siblings fiercely.

As one of the first female attorneys and first-ever Rhodes Scholar in Zambia, she was a leader, activist, and an inspiration to many people. She was incredibly busy and driven, but she still found time to teach me how to cook, read to me, and make sure I always prioritized my education.

She was so strong, right up to the end of her life. We didn’t know she was HIV-positive until much later when we discovered that she had died of AIDS-related complications. Even though she was sick, nobody imagined she would die. My mom could overcome anything, she was my immovable rock.

And then suddenly, she was gone.

Overnight, I became a mother to my younger brothers and sisters. Mom had trained me for this my entire life—thanks to our weekend cooking adventures I could make Shepard’s Pie by the time I was 10 years old—but there was nothing that could prepare me for the reality that she was gone.

I still hurt when I realize I can never ask her a question or seek advice again.

A few years after my mother passed away, I found out I was also living with HIV. Newly diagnosed, my health was failing, my future was uncertain, and my heart was shattered.

All my dreams and plans for the future ground to a halt. I’d always wanted to be like my mom, to have an incredibly successful career and a supportive and loving family. I thought HIV stole that from me.

Like many other women in Zambia (and around the world) I had no idea there were treatments to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to almost zero! Globally, 700 babies are newly infected with HIV every day because their moms lack the knowledge of and access to the health services they need to prevent transmission.

But we CAN prevent pediatric HIV. I am living proof of that. As you read this, almost a decade later, I’m planning my oldest son’s fifth birthday party. He was originally supposed to be born on May 15—my mother’s birthday, but instead he was born on Mother’s Day.

He was the perfect gift. Every birthday, every moment I get to spend with my family is so much more precious because the life I’m living today seemed impossible a few short years ago.

My husband and I have been married for seven years now. We’re blessed to be raising a daughter and two, happy, healthy, HIV-negative boys. My husband is HIV-negative. I’m healthy.

I still miss my mother every day and I wish she could know my husband and her grandchildren. I see so much of her in them. My son Josiah has her smile and every time my son Judah gets his “angry look” I feel like I am looking at her.

But I carry her with me. My mother and her strong spirit inspire me every day. As an ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), I believe that every mother, regardless of where she lives, deserves the same opportunity to have an HIV-negative child and many more healthy years to raise him.

This Mother’s Day, join me and EGPAF to help make sure that no child loses his mother to this disease, the way I did. Share your favorite memory of your mother in our #MOMentos campaign and join the movement for an AIDS-free future.