Triple the Joy: A Story of Three HIV-Free Babies

Susan Jembere and her triplets at 2 years and 8 months.

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Living with HIV and treating it with antiretroviral (ARV) medication, Susan Jembere did not waste any time to begin antenatal care when she became pregnant for the fourth time. Already a mother of three, Susan knew that she could prevent transmission of the virus to her unborn child through a drug regime. But when the nurse at Susan’s local clinic referred her to St. Pauls, a big mission hospital in Musami, Zimbabwe, Susan could not help but worry if something was wrong with her unborn child.

An ultrasound scan at the hospital showed that she was actually carrying triplets. Susan was overwhelmed—three children at home and now three more on the way! 

“For the first time, I began to doubt if the ARVs were going to be strong enough to help all these three [new] children not to get the infection,” said Susan.    

Susan continued taking her ARVs as instructed and visited the hospital regularly for antenatal care. On these visits she was instructed on how to administer antiretroviral prophylaxis, Nevirapine, to her babies after she delivered them. She was also given information about postnatal care visits. Her babies would be tested for HIV at six weeks in order to commence appropriate intervention early if necessary.

In March 2012, Susan gave birth to three healthy girls—Tinotendaishe, Tadiwanashe and Tanatswanashe—weighing in at 2, 2.2, and 2.25 kg. (4.5, 4.8, and 5 lbs.) respectively. Hospital staff told Susan that the healthiest feeding option is exclusive breastfeeding.

“Now I had another worry,” remembers Susan. “Would I have enough milk for all three of my girls to exclusively breastfeed for six whole months? I was determined and somehow managed to do it.  I did not want to let anything come in the way of my triplets’ good health.”  

At six months, Susan brought her babies back to the hospital for the scheduled check-up and the important polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which detects presence of HIV.  

“The worries were never ending, but I knew I had done everything right,” says Susan. “When they told me all three of my children were HIV-negative, I could not hide the tears of joy. We had done it!”  
The final HIV tests were administered three months after Susan stopped breastfeeding. Tests at that time confirmed that all of the babies were HIV-negative. The Jembere family are all in good health and remain grateful to the staff at St. Paul Musami Hospital; the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which supports the hospital; and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) program.