THE usually effortless process of br_east feeding proves to be very difficult for baby Tida (not her real name)as she struggles to suck her mother’s br_east.Her 26-year-old mother cuddles her and tries to feed her again but Tida screams as the br_east is thrust in her mount.
I wonder what is wrong with her and I ask what the problem is.
Four-month-old baby Tida has thrush in her mouth hence difficulty in feeding,her mother tells me unsuccessfully hiding the tears glistering in her eyes.
“I destroyed my child’s life because of ignorance and poverty.I will never forgive myself for her suffering,”says Mary (not her real name),a HIV positive mother from Epworth who passed on the virus to her four-months-old baby.
Mary,a se_x worker in Epworth who plies her trade at the famous Booster says she knew of her status before falling pregnant but had no money or time to go for antenatal care.
The mother-of four shares her story of regret and agony.
“I never made any antenatal care booking on this pregnancy because I didn’t have money.It was an unplanned pregnancy and given the nature of my job,I didn’t even know who was responsible for the pregnancy.
“I continued with se_x work until I was six months pregnant before I started feeling sick and couldn’t work anymore.Although I knew of my HIV status,I hoped that I would miraculously not pass on the virus to the unborn baby just like what happened on the third child,”she says,constantly cuddling baby Tida.
Mary says she had very little knowledge on the prevention of the mother to child transmission of mother to child transmission of HIV programme (PMTCT) and only presented at the local clinic when she was in labour.
“I went to the clinic where I was referred to Harare Central Hospital and I gave birth on arrival at the hospital.I still had not disclosed my status to the health workers and when I was tested they confirmed that I and the baby had the virus.
“My heart sank when I heard that the virus had been passed on to the baby,I hate myself for what happened,”adds Mary.
“I got to know of my status five years ago and I gave birth to my third child while I was already HIV positive and by luck I didn’t infect this one.
“I rarely have time and money to go for antenatal care during pregnancy and I have little knowledge of how a mother can protect her child from the virus.
“Being a se_x worker,you are already discriminated in the community and even if you get the money,it is not easy to go to the clinic because of the people and the nurses ‘attitude’ concedes Mary.She further chronicles a story of suffering following the birth of baby Tida who she says has been constantly in and out of the hospital.
She has not been well and she has been admitted twice since birth.She has since developed thrush in her mouth and has difficulties in feeding.
I was given a prescription of drugs that I should buy for her to treat the thrush but I don’t have money.It has not been easy and every day I live with regret of passing on the virus to my innocent child.
Mary whose only source of income is from se_x work says she has no option but to leave the ailing baby with her eight-year-old son who takes care of his siblings when duty calls.
As you can see she is sick but I also have to work so that I can take care of my children.They all have different fathers and because the men knew that I’m a se_x worker,it has not been easy to claim maintenance from any of them,”she adds..
While she is full of regret and self pity,her life mirrors that of several other women in the country who have an unmet need of family planning as well as those who have missed out on PMTCT.
The problem is not only peculiar to Mary but several other women across the country,which is why the Government could have missed its target to reduce the rate of new HIV infections among children to 5 percent by 2015.
Although the country has been commended for reducing the transmission rate from 30 percent in 2006 to 6,7 percent in 2015 on bridging the gap to ensure that every pregnant woman accesses antenatal care.
Deputy national coordinator for PMTCT,Paediatric HIV Care and Treatment in the ministry of Health and Child Care,Dr Soloman Mukungunugwa says not all mothers were accessing antenatal care due to various reasons with religious objectors topping the list of obstacles.
“Not all women are accessing antenatal care and we do urge all women to do so as we aim to reduce the transmission rate to 5 percent.
“We slightly missed on our 2015 target but the 6,7 percent was still an achievement for the country considering that we were once at 30 percent but we still can do more and ensure that all babies are HIV free.
“It is such a social injustice to pass on the virus to an innocent child when there is a way of preventing it.
We are calling on the media to also partner with us as we spread the message on the need of antenatal care as early as possible for all expecting mothers,”says Dr Mukungunugwa.
PMTCT IS an intervention to ensure that no child is born with HIV and it is an essential step to ensuring an AIDS free generation.
The PMTCT initiative provides drugs,counselling and phychological support to help mothers safeguard their infants against the virus.
PMTCT are offered in all the 1643 health care facilities across the country’s 62 districts.
While the country is on the verge of eliminating new paediatric HIV infections,Mary continues to regret how she could have missed on such a programme which could have seen her giving birth to a HIV free baby.
Still the struggle to feed Baby Tida continues.