Markelaitsoe: Lesotho

Marekelalitsoe with other women at Mokhotlong Hospital in Lesotho.

Jon Hrusa

My name is Marekelalitsoe and I am 22 years old. I live with my husband in a village in Mokhotlong district, Lesotho. My husband builds houses for a living and I am a housewife. I’m 28 weeks pregnant with our first child.

This morning, I came to the clinic at Mokhotlong Hospital for my first antenatal checkup. I was scared before I came. My family told me that the nurses would insult me because I delayed coming for so long. But that did not happen – the nurses and staff were good to me and made me feel welcome.

When I arrived at the clinic there were many other pregnant women there, as well new mothers and their babies. It was nice to be with other women who are going through what I’m going through, and to know that I can come here for healthcare after my baby is born.

We gathered together in the main room of the clinic for group counseling. The nurses discussed the importance of taking care of ourselves and our babies while we are pregnant and after we give birth. They also explained that those of us who had come for the first time would receive an HIV test.

After the group counseling, we went one by one to the front of the room for our check-ups. When my turn came, the nurse weighed and measured me, took my blood pressure, and asked me questions about my health. I then went to a private room for HIV counseling and testing.

I was a bit nervous to be tested. But my counselor, Moliehi, made me feel comfortable. Moliehi is the counselor in charge of PMTCT, which stands for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Moliehi gave me a leaflet about PMTCT and explained how important it is to be tested for HIV, both for me and my unborn child. She told me how the test works and showed me two sample test strips, so I understood the difference between a positive and negative result. Moliehi described everything clearly and made sure I understood.

Moliehi took a drop of blood from my finger and put it on the test strip. We waited several minutes, and finally the result was clear – I am HIV-negative. I felt relieved and happy. After explaining my test result, Moliehi emphasized the importance of staying HIV-negative for my own health and that of my child, and suggested some strategies on how to do this.

I had a good experience here today – I received much more than I expected. I am very excited about the birth of my child now, and I plan to keep returning to the clinic to get the care I need for myself and my baby. I’d like to thank the nurses and counselors at Mokhotlong for everything they are doing to help women like me in Lesotho.

The maternal and child health (MCH) clinic at Mokhotlong Hospital is a “one-stop shop” for pregnant women and their partners, as well as for new mothers and their babies. Pregnant women receive prenatal counseling and care and HIV counseling and testing. Those who test positive for HIV receive a regimen of medications to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus, as well as antiretroviral treatment (ART) to protect their own health if needed. All newborn babies are also tested for HIV and receive ART if they are positive.

Thanks to the support it receives from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Lesotho Ministry of Health, the Mokhotlong MCH clinic helps dozens of women like Marekelalitsoe every day.