In Her Own Words: A Mother's Journey to Keeping Babies HIV-Free
The story below comes from a beneficiary of mothers2mothers, a non-profit organization that receives funding from U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Edits have been made for clarity.
My name is Kamohelo Moroeng, and I am a 27-year-old woman from Lesotho in southern Africa. I work with mothers2mothers as a mentor mother for the Qoaling Filter Clinic. I have three children and I am also the guardian of my teenage sister as both of my parents passed away a few years ago. I am the sole breadwinner at home, and as such, it is my responsibility to see to it that the fundamental needs of all my children are met.
While on my prenatal visit about two years ago, I was introduced to a mentor mother, who provided me with support and education as well as shared the benefits of testing and taking early treatment, specifically for my unborn child. I took an HIV test and it came back positive. I was very devastated. I thought it was the end of the world for me and I contemplated suicide.
However, with continued encouragement and support from the mentor mother, I pulled through and started treatment so that I could prevent the virus from infecting my unborn child. After my second prenatal visit, the mentor mother spent time with me one-on-one, which made me feel very encouraged. She told me that if I took the medication regularly, my baby had a high chance of being born negative, and that I also had a good chance of living a healthy, long, and productive life. The mentor mother also invited me to join a support group.
In my first encounter with the support group, I was very encouraged by how all of the women looked healthy, happy, and confident and how they openly spoke about their HIV status. It helped me realize that there were other women who were in the same position. It gave me the courage to live and a reason to continue attending the support group sessions. I learned the importance of adhering to my antiretroviral therapy. I decided to become an active member of the support group and three months later, I started leading some of the group sessions.
After Birth, More Challenges
I was very excited after giving birth. My child was born HIV negative. I did a final test when my son was 18 months old, and the results confirmed his negative status. I continued being an active member of the postnatal support group and also offering support and education to some of the prenatal clients based on my experience.
However, at the time, I was still struggling to feed my three children and younger sister. Life was so challenging. I was basically depending on the goodwill of my family and friends to make ends meet. After my baby was about 8 months old, I saw an advertisement at the health facility recruiting mentor mothers, and I submitted my application. I was very excited when I was invited to attend the interviews. At the end of the interview, I was glad when I was told that I was one of the successful candidates.
A New Role
I am very proud as I now can meet my basic needs and the needs of my four dependents through my mentor mother stipend. Working as a mentor mother is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
I feel very confident and empowered as I contribute to preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV through the education and psychosocial support I provide to other women. It makes me feel good when I see so many lives being changed and children being born HIV-free.
I am so grateful for all of the support given to me while I was pregnant as I was able to prevent my child from being infected with HIV. Furthermore, I am grateful for the opportunity to change other lives by sharing my own experience with pregnant and new mothers. I will do my best to support and share my knowledge and my story with other women in similar circumstances.Kamohelo Moroeng with her three children and 25-year-old younger sister © mothers2mothers