Putting disclosure at the forefront in HIV/AIDS: “The power of a loving husband”
M’e Mapelaelo Thaisi is a 37 year-old housewife and mother of two in Lesotho who is living with HIV. Her husband and one of her children are also positive, and ‘M’e Mapelaelo has faced significant challenges in staying healthy and keeping her family healthy and happy. But with the support of her husband and EGPAF, she has been able to have an HIV-negative child and have a happy, healthy family. M’e Mapelaelo has shared her story with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
M’e Mapelaelo Thaisi is a housewife. She and her family live in Litśaneng, 21 miles from Roma hospital, southeast of Lesotho’s capital city of Maseru. The couple has two children, a seven-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. M’e Mapelaelo was diagnosed with HIV before her first pregnancy with her second husband. However, she did not disclose her status publicly, not even to the nurses caring for her during her pregnancy. The only person she told was her husband. He chose to stay and support his wife.
M’e Mapelaelo‘s husband, 59-year-old Ntate Lebamang Mphoso, is also living with HIV. He became aware of his status, and was sent to St. Joseph’s Hospital for a blood test. Before he was tested, Lebamang had suspected that he was HIV-positive, and accepted his status. He attends a monthly male support group at St. Bernard clinic, which first started meeting in 2010.
Unfortunately, M’e Mapelaelo stopped taking her medication while she was pregnant. On the morning of September 4, 2005, while walking from her home to the health clinic, she gave birth to her first child, Motselisi. Because she did not disclose her HIV status, she did not receive any medication during the birth. After the birth, she was assisted by a village health worker, who took her home to rest.
Almost immediately, baby Motselisi became sick. Motselisi was referred to St. Joseph’s hospital in Roma, then Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative, and lastly, Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Maseru, where she was admitted in critical condition with diarrhea and dehydration. Queen Elizabeth II hospital performed an HIV test on Motselisi, and as soon as the results came back positive, she began antiretroviral therapy (ART). After a month in the hospital, Motselisi was finally well enough to go home.
After counseling, and with the support of her husband, M’e Mapelaelo was re-initiated on ART at St. Bernard, Unfortunately, St. Bernard only offered treatment for adults—which mean Motselisi had to travel to Baylor’s facility for pediatric treatment.
In 2010, with support from EGPAF, St. Bernard took a big step and began offering children HIV medication, and Motselisi shifted from getting her care at Baylor to St. Bernard. In addition, ‘M’e Mapelaelo started attending HIV education classes and coming for monthly check-ups at St. Bernard with Motselisi. Motselisi takes her medication regularly, and she is a healthy child.
When M’e Mapelaelo became pregnant with her second child, with EGPAF’s support she made use of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services offered at St. Bernard clinic and took her medication regularly. Thanks to PMTCT, her son Moeketsi was born HIV negative. The clinic put him on Nevirapine for six weeks immediately after he was born and he was tested for HIV after six weeks and again at nine months and 18 months of age. Thanks to PMTCT services, Moeketsi remained HIV-negative and M’e Mapelaelo was able to breastfeed him for a year without infecting him with the virus. With the support she receives from the health care workers at St. Bernard and EGPAF, ‘M’e Mapelaelo leads a normal life. She and her husband work in the fields to support their family.
We asked M’e Mapelaelo what inspires her to remain on ART, and she said that the “family glue” that binds her, her husband, and her children together provided the support she needed to stay on track. In addition, she feels that being able to work with health care workers to stay on her medication and learn more about HIV has been especially helpful. “Even if you are HIV-positive, you are still loved and cared for,” she said.