Martha knows all too well the terrible cost of HIV. She has lost siblings, aunts and uncles to AIDS. Over the years, she has attended 12 funerals for 12 cousins who passed from complications to AIDS. Her mother died when she was 22 and she raised many of her siblings and supported many of the community orphans as a young woman. Beyond her own family, she has lost many more friends and community members to the disease.
In 2003, she found her own life threatened by disease that had taken so much from her. She had returned to her home country of Zambia after moving to U.S. a year earlier and starting work with a non-profit focusing on supporting orphans and widows. She fell very sick, but delayed seeking treatment, hoping that she would not have to realize her worst fears. Eventually she was tested and diagnosed with HIV. After starting treatment she slowly regained her health and was able to resume her work.
Martha met her husband, Andy, while he was on a mission trip for the organization where they both worked. They fell in love and married in Zambia. They immediately talked of starting a family. Anxious at first, after talking to their doctors, Martha was confident that prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) would protect her children and allow them to be born HIV free.
In 2009, they welcomed their first son,. He was born healthy and free of HIV. Martha and Andy decided soon after his birth to move their family to the United States, leaving behind Zambia and the community they both loved. Shortly after their arrival in the U.S., Martha became pregnant with her second son, who was born in February 2011; He HIV-negative just like his older brother. Martha also adopted the youngest of her siblings. Today, Martha and her family live in Virginia. She has earned a master’s degree in public health, is a director of policy & advocacy programs for a non-profit supporting orphans and widows, in addition to her work as Ambassador for EGPAF.
As an HIV-positive mother of two HIV-negative children, Martha strives to educate women about stigma, HIV prevention, and the incredible gift of PMTCT services. She continues to advocate for increased access to these critical services and looks forward to the day when every HIV-positive woman in the U.S., Zambia, and every other part of the world has the knowledge, and the ability, to have an HIV-negative child.