“When the nurse at the Antenatal Care (ANC) clinic informed me, I needed to get tested for HIV, I was not worried because I was healthy and fat, I had always associated HIV with thin people (chuckles). I immediately sensed something was amiss when the medics started consulting in low tones before breaking the news that I had tested positive for HIV,” recalls Jacinta Nyaguthi a resident of Kahuhia village, Murang’a county.
Jacinta was shaken by the news and worried about her unborn child. Though reluctant, she was immediately initiated on antiretroviral drugs and advised to adhere to her medication to protect her unborn child from acquiring the virus. She was also enrolled in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT)* programme at the facility throughout her pregnancy and breastfeeding journey. It was the advice and counsel received through this program as she recalls that helped protect her child from infection even after birth.
“I felt discouraged when I discovered my status and I did not believe that I would give birth to a HIV free child but I listened to what the doctor said and adhered to my medication,” she said.
Thirteen years later, Jacinta celebrates the birth and health of her 2 HIV free children. Her experience living with HIV motivated her to take up a voluntary role as a Mentor Mother at Kirogo Health Centre a CHS supported facility. Her role involves, providing advice and psychosocial support to women and couples living with HIV, referring clients to PMTCT and following up with HIV clients who have missed their monthly appointments living with HIV/AIDS as well as sharing her experience and information on how to live positively.
“CHS staff encouraged me and gave me hope; they lifted my spirit and made me believe there was a future even after contracting HIV, I am now doing the same for other women living with HIV, I encourage them and support them through their treatment journey,” Jacinta says.
CHS, through its TEGEMEZA Plus project and with funding from the US President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been implementing and expanding HIV prevention, care, and treatment services in 89 facilities in Nyeri, Nyandarua and Murang’a Counties. Between October 2020 and March 2021, 16,394 pregnant women attending ANC were tested, accounting for 50% of the annual target. Out of those tested 456 were identified as positive and were started on ART.
If women are tested for HIV early in their pregnancy, those who are positive can be initiated on treatment to improve their health and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to the baby.
*Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programmes offer a range of services for women of reproductive age living with or at risk of HIV to maintain their health and stop their infants from acquiring HIV.