During a prenatal visit, Suzanne Kouadio discovered she was HIV-positive. "I was terrified," said the Cote d'Ivoire native. "On my way back home, I felt the world around had stopped. I felt I was really lost."
Looking for comfort and support at home, Kouadio instead found anger, rejection and ignorance about HIV/AIDS from both her family and boyfriend. She was asked to leave the house by her family. And while she was able to persuade her boyfriend to get tested for HIV, he never returned to the clinic to learn the result. He later died - unaware of his HIV status.
Recognizing the risks associated with the disease, a pregnant and alone Kouadio enrolled in a prevention of mother-to-child transmission program. As a result, she gave birth to an HIV-negative baby.
But after successfully giving birth to an HIV-free child, Kouadio's own health began to deteriorate. She soon visited a clinic supported by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) where she received antiretroviral therapy. Here, she also received a referral to community-based care and support.
Now healthy, Kouadio hopes to soon work as an HIV/AIDS counselor.
"I want more information and awareness campaigns to be organized so people won't give up taking their medication," she said.
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