Paulina, Carlos, and their daughter Deolinda. (Photo: EGPAF)
My name is Paulina. I am 18 years old and live in Matutuine District, Mozambique. In 2007, when I was 15 years old, I became pregnant and went to the local health center for my first prenatal visit. At the clinic, I was tested and received the diagnosis that I was HIV-positive.
For the remainder of my pregnancy, I continued to visit the clinic for routine check-ups, but I did not follow the doctor´s orders. I was immature, and did not think about my baby´s health and future. Sadly, I didn’t pay much attention to the advice of clinic staff about treating my illness and preventing the transmission of the disease to my unborn child.
I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and named her Deolinda, but against the advice of my doctors, I did not have her tested for HIV. Within 12 months, she became sick. I took her to the hospital where she was tested and diagnosed with HIV. It was a big shock for me--and I was sad and angry that I had not followed the doctor’s advice many months earlier.
I stayed strong and dedicated myself to caring for my baby. Through counseling and support from a local community-based organization, I worked hard to save my daughter. Today, she is receiving HIV treatment and is healthy and growing.
I live with my husband and he knows that both my daughter and I are HIV-positive. Even though he is not the biological father of my daughter, he cares about her and accepts us the way we are. I am very happy and fortunate to have such a loving partner who supports and encourages me to continue treatment and counseling. Together, we participate in a community support group of people living with HIV/AIDS. We meet regularly with the objective to exchange experiences and share concerns about living with HIV. Support groups like these, the enduring trust and love of my husband, and the joy I get from watching my daughter grow are reminders of my commitment to staying healthy. I am fortunate to have all of them.
My husband and I have been talking to local volunteers to learn how we can have a brother or sister for Deolinda. We have been advised to go to the health center and see a doctor for options. If we’re lucky enough to have a child, I will follow all of the recommendations so I can give my baby the gift of a healthy future— being born free of HIV.
From Paulina’s husband Carlos:
My name is Carlos and I am a 27-year-old fisherman from Massaca, Mozambique. When I met Paulina, I instantly fell in love with her. In the two years that we have lived together, she has always been honest with me about her health, and protections I should take to avoid becoming infected. She counseled me to get tested for HIV, and I found out I am HIV-negative. The counselors and nurses at the health center advised us to use always a condom in order to protect ourselves, which we do.
I really love my wife. We live well – with no preconceptions or judgments – and we always use a condom so I do not get infected.
Others in our community talk about us and tell me that because I am young and healthy, I should leave my wife and find another woman. There are a lot of women out there, they say, but I always tell them that Paulina is the woman for me. I love my wife and I take care of her baby, which is our baby. They are my family and I will never leave them.