"I can tell you that losing a child to HIV is the worst thing a mother can go through. When I lost Nomthunzi, I cried for a long time. Then I decided to stand up and try to make a difference."
In 1997, Florence lost her five-month-old baby, Nomthunzi, to AIDS. Today, Florence lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is the mother of two healthy boys.
In 1996, Florence gave birth to a beautiful daughter, Nomthunzi. Shortly after, they both became sick. They went to the hospital for tests, Florence’s worst fear was realized: they were both infected with HIV.
Nomthunzi held on for several more weeks, but there were no antiretroviral medicines available for children at that time in South Africa. In February 1997, only a few months after the sudden death of Florence’s husband, her daughter Nomthunzi also passed away. She was only 5 months old.
In the wake of such a devastating loss, Florence searched for any way to move forward and to try and save other mothers from the overwhelmingly sadness she now felt. She began to counsel and train women in health, focusing on those who were also living with the virus at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa, the very same hospital where she and her daughter had been diagnosed. Many people still did not understand how HIV was transmitted and there was no access to HIV prevention programs.
But then, thanks to the work of so many, including EGPAF and other partners, there was a way to stop transmission of HIV from mother to child. Antiretroviral treatment and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services came to South Africa. Women with HIV began to learn that there was hope that children could be born free of HIV.
Today, Florence is happily re-married and the mother of two beautiful young boys, Alex and Kulani, both healthy and HIV-negative. She is completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Witswatersrand and in addition to her role as an EGPAF Ambassador, Florence is an HIV educator, spokesperson and programs consultant. Florence travels around the world sharing her story with world leaders and the Global HIV/AIDS community, most recently spoke at a Gala hosted by UNAIDS in Geneva to support efforts to end AIDS in children worldwide.
As a healthy and active EGPAF Ambassador of EGPAF, Florence considers it her life’s work to give a voice to the hundreds of thousands of people who, like her, are living with HIV and contribute to change in her contribution to fighting HIV and AIDS