Going Home, Part 2
Foundation Ambassador Martha Cameron who is living with HIV, recently traveled back to her home country of Zambia to visit family and friends and follow her passion for helping her community. Following her return to the United States -- where she now lives with her husband and three HIV-negative children -- Martha shared her experiences with us. This is the second of two blogs about her trip.
My mother had said that her biggest mistake was going to school and getting educated. She was a smart, incredible, powerful woman. I didn’t understand her words until now.
I walk in some of the communities where I once lived and worked, and I begin to see and experience these places in a different light. I see pit latrines and water puddles with pigs wallowing right next to children in tattered clothes, or no clothes at all. There are no butterflies. There are no birds. Women are everywhere, asking me to buy this and purchase that. I want to escape or make it better.
I return to the house to a wonderful dinner of chicken stew and vegetables. There is no power and I am going to get some much-needed rest. My aunt says she will check on me later. I just want to sleep.
She slips in to let me know she has something to tell me. She is worried about Elizabeth (not her real name), her niece and my cousin. Elizabeth just gave birth and my aunt was present for the delivery. Elizabeth had scheduled a cesarean section, even though she had told her mother it was an emergency c-section. Elizabeth wasn’t breastfeeding.
This could only mean one thing: Elizabeth was HIV positive.
“Oh, what a terrible thing.”
“Oh, it must be that husband of hers. He was way too experienced for her.”
As much as I know that my aunt is worried for her niece’s health, I put my head back in the dark and smile.
Good job Elizabeth -- you have successfully undergone HIV prevention services to keep your new baby, the most important thing in your life, free of HIV.
I talked to Elizabeth the following day. I could hear the smile. I could feel her pride.
“He is beautiful.”
“You must be very tired.”
“I am, but he is so worth it.”
I told her that I was really proud of her and everything was going to be alright.
Her story makes me think of my own. My discovery of the miracle of PMTCT and my own two miracle babies tucked in at home. One day they will tell them the story and they will understand I have never been so far away from them. I’ve never left them and not seen them for so long. Judah has finally quit going around the house calling my name and looking for me; Josiah is upset that I did not take him with me on the plane. I’m sure they are ready for my return.
Until then, I see a spot of hope in my Zambian home. Elizabeth -- and women everywhere -- are learning. Maybe my mom was wrong – education is helping here.