Zonta supports lifesaving activities for people living with HIV in Rwanda
By Glenn Jusnes
28 March 2012 – When Immaculée was diagnosed as HIV-positive it was hard for her to accept it at first but after receiving counselling she has slowly began to understand more about the disease and now knows how to cope and live with it. The counsellors at the local health centre told her that despite her HIV-positive status she could give birth to a healthy child. “My husband couldn’t accept his HIV-positive status at first and he just recently started taking ant-retroviral drugs. Since I was already pregnant, I immediately started taking the drugs to save my child.”
Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa that has started a national campaign to eliminate the transmission of HIV from mother to child. In the end of 2011, there were 446 health facilities, which offer integrated Prevention of Mother-to-Child-Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services in the country. In 2010, some 9,000 HIV-positive pregnant women benefitted from these services. This figure is representing 87% of all HIV-positive pregnant women in Rwanda. Almost 7,000 of these women received antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy and labor to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV.
UNICEF has partnered with Zonta International since 2008 to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child by providing a full range of family package services at PMTCT sites throughout Rwanda. With the generous contributions from Zonta, UNICEF will continue to help HIV-positive women and children to live healthy lives in dignity and hope.
Immaculée is one of the many women who has benefitted from this support. “I attended antenatal care sessions and was put on anti-retroviral treatment. I was also advised to give birth at the hospital instead of at home. The delivery went well and the child was given drugs treatment for 28 days after the birth. After six weeks they tested my baby girl for the first time and the result was negative. Then they gave the baby antibiotics and I was advised to exclusively breastfeed my daughter for the first six months of her life or until I had stopped producing enough milk. After 18 months she was tested for the second time. When the result again showed that she was HIV-negative I felt really blessed by God,” Immaculée says with a big smile.
“I now feel good because I’m disciplined and follow the doctors’ advice. I also avoid stressful situations and take my medicine regularly and over time,” she continues before she adds one of her major concerns: “Will we continue to receive this type of support? You know, we need to take these drugs for the rest of our lives – but if the drugs stop, our lives stop.”