Lungile (left) and her counselor Christabel at the Luyengo Clinic. (Photo: Jon Hrusa)
My name is Lungile and I am 33 years old. I live in Luyengo, Swaziland
, in a rented flat with my four children — aged 17, 14, 9, and 12 months.
My oldest three children are from my first husband, who died of an HIV/AIDS-related illness. Then I met the father of my 12-month-old son. He is 57 years old and has two wives. I am his prospective third wife.
When I became pregnant with my youngest son, I visited the Luyengo Health Clinic to receive antenatal care. I underwent HIV counseling and testing as part of the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV program that the Foundation supports at Luyengo. I was shocked to learn that I was HIV-positive. It was very difficult for me to disclose my positive results to my partner and to my family and community, because of the stigma surrounding HIV.
But Christabel, my counselor at the clinic, supported me and helped me accept and admit my status. She also told me about the medical treatment that was available to help prevent the transmission of HIV to my unborn baby. I had a CD4 count of 84, which means I had a high level of HIV in my blood and a high risk of transmitting the virus to my baby.
I was six months pregnant and I immediately enrolled in antiretroviral (ARV) therapy to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. When my baby was born, he also received medication to help prevent transmission. And I am very happy to say that my son is now HIV-negative.
I was so inspired by Christabel that I became an HIV peer educator, and I now counsel other women who are experiencing what I went through.
My CD4 count is now 140 — better than before but still very low. I don’t have enough to eat yet, and ARV therapy works best when combined with a healthy diet. But despite these challenges, I believe there is hope.
I am grateful to Christabel and to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation for everything they have done for me and others like me. Thanks to them, babies born to HIV-positive mothers have a chance at a healthy life.
In July 2008, Lungile told her inspiring story to Foundation supporters, staff members, and Swazi Ministry of Health officials participating in AIDS Walk Africa 2008 in Swaziland.