National Public Radio Hears the Stories of Mothers and Children and HIV in Mozambique
July 8, 2011
This week, the stories of mothers and children and HIV in Mozambique
were told on American radio. A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to hear those stories in person when I took two reporters to a health center in the town of Macia, located in the southeastern corner of Mozambique.
The visitors were from the U.S. news outlet National Public Radio (NPR), in Mozambique reporting for a new series about women and childbirth. The NPR team was composed of two reporters, Melissa Block, the host of the program “All Things Considered,” and her producer Andrea Hsu.
Melita Manuel Timane is one of many mothers in Macia district
that has given birth to an HIV-free child because of
antiretroviral drugs she received during pregnancy.
(Photo: Denise Alves/EGPAF)
Their main objective in visiting Gaza province – an area with extremely high HIV rates – was to learn about our successes in helping HIV-positive mothers give birth to HIV-negative babies.
When they arrived in Macia, we took them to the local health center to see in person the maternal and child health department. They spoke with our country director, Dr. Nancy Fitch, and interviewed many of the mothers who were attending the clinic.
The pregnant women they interviewed did not feel scared, even with the microphones and equipment around them. They spoke very openly about their HIV-status, and they told us their stories.
One of those stories came from Melita Manuel Timane, a thirty-three-year-old mother of four children, living in the Macia district. She found out that she was HIV-positive in 2005, when she was pregnant. She was feeling sick and weak, and had strong headaches, so she went to the local health center.
The nurse there counseled her to take an HIV test, and the results told her she was HIV-positive.
When she heard that, she immediately thought that she was going to die. She had limited information about HIV and AIDS, but after counseling with the nurse, she realized that she was not going to die. In fact, if she followed the treatment correctly, she had the chance to live a long life. And there was a strong chance that her baby would be born HIV-free.
“I was so happy and relieved to know that medication for this disease existed, and I could live more years and be able to take care of my children,” she told us.
“My husband left me when I told him my HIV status. He went back to South Africa, where he used to work. But this time he did not come back.”
After finding out that she was HIV-positive, Melita took her children to the hospital to also get tested. One of her sons, who was two years old at the time, was also diagnosed with HIV. He was put on treatment, and today he is a healthy eight year old.
Melita gave birth to another boy later that year. Because of the antiretroviral drugs she received during her pregnancy, he was born HIV-negative. Now he is six years old, and still free of HIV.
Today Melita is not only a patient at the health center. She is also a volunteer for a community-based organization called OCSIDA, which gets support from the Foundation. She works as a counselor in the local communities, talking to other women and advising them to go to the health center to get tested, and to follow the treatment if they are HIV-positive.
Melita is also facing a new challenge: how to reveal to her son that he is HIV-positive. She knows that it’s time – he is starting to question the pills that he takes every day. But she is confident that her son will accept the news positively. He is an intelligent boy, and participates in a counseling group of children living with HIV in the community.
In the group, children get to share and exchange experiences. They talk about their lives, their HIV-status, and the challenges that they face in day-to-day life, in school, and at home.
She thinks that her son already knows what he has, and that what he really wants is to get confirmation from her. Her dream is that her son will grow up healthy and become a doctor, so he can treat his family and other children in the community.
Her son’s story is similar to the stories of many other children in Mozambique, collected in the new book “I Want to Be Somebody
,” produced by a partnership between the Foundation and Mozambican novelist Paulina Chiziane.
And Melita’s story is similar to many other mothers’ stories as well. Like the other women we met, she was extremely grateful for the support that the Foundation gives to the health center, made possible by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
“Thank you very much for your support,” Melita told us. “Please don’t stop supporting us, because we live in a poor country, and we need your help. Through your help, we can have hope in life, because we have medication.”
Through NPR’s visit to Macia, hopefully more people will hear about the challenges and successes of fighting HIV in Mozambique, and continue that support.
to read and hear NPR’s piece about preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Mozambique.
Denise Alves is a Communications and Advocacy Officer, based in Maputo, Mozambique.