Liuda is sure that prevention will help her to give birth to a HIV-free baby
“Do you already feel your baby?” the gynaecologist asks her patient Liudmyla*. «A lot! He is boxing like a true sportsman,” answers Liuda and gives a happy smile.
Liudmyla is a client of the “Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission and Improvement of Perinatal Outcomes among Drug-Addicted Pregnant Women and Their Newborns” project which is implemented by the William J. Clinton Foundation with UNICEF support, and in partnership with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine.
Liuda’s story is very much like the stories of her peers. She was a teen during roaring during the 1990s, when very few adolescents knew about the dangers of HIV and how to prevent an infection. At that time, most young people shared the belief that drugs are the straightest way to have a blast and feel happy – better than alcohol. No one realized the severity of the problem, nor did they want to think about the consequences. Since then, many of Liuda’s friends have died, including her first husband, who died from AIDS.
Liuda became aware of her HIV status six years ago. During those long years, she tried to give up drugs, but it was quite a challenge. Liuda’s path to healthy life started from working in rehabilitation centre, as she was inspired by the example of other former drug addicts who were strong enough to start with a clean slate. It helped with her self-confidence and positive attitude. “I took stock of my values and I felt that I wanted to live!” recalls Liuda. In this rehabilitation centre, she fell in love with a man who was giving classes for drug addicts. They are now married.
Liuda learned about maternity clinic #4 that cooperates with the project “Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission and Improvement of Perinatal Outcomes among Drug-Addicted Pregnant Women and Their Newborns” from the volunteers of non-governmental care provider to people living with HIV. In the last months, she has comes here to undergo formal examination and plans to deliver her hero in this clinic.
Liuda glances at her watch and says good-bye: she needs to take medicine that helps her protect not only her own health, but also the health of her future son, and to ensure that he is born HIV-free. Liuda was advised by a doctor that she could deliver an absolutely healthy baby. She did not expect that a new diagnostic method would enable her to learn about the HIV status of her new-born within 48 hours after birth. If a mother-to-be is able to discover HIV status so promptly, it will allow her to remain calm and focus on treatment, which is a pre-requisite for giving birth to a healthy baby.
HIV/AIDS is still a very serious problem in Ukraine. According to official statistics of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, between 1995 and 2012, 32 504 children were born to HIV-positive mothers . 21 916 of them are HIV-free, with the other 6 735 babies up to 18 months old are waiting for confirmation of their status. 2 814 of these children are HIV-positive, 752 of them have AIDS, and 287 have died from AIDS-provoked diseases.
In 2013, with the support of MAC AIDS Fund (foundation of Make-up Art Cosmetics), UNICEF started to run a campaign, which includes, among other components, prevention of HIV mother-to-child transmission and improvement of HIV early diagnostic methods for newborns especially Dry Blood Spot method (DBS). During project lifespan, 148 women from HIV high risk group, including drug users through injection, benefited from it. Furthermore, up to 240 babies from 6 regions have benefited from the DBS method, allowing the timely prescription of ART treatment to HIV-positive babies, providing relief to mothers whose babies proved to be HIV free. Pregnant women can receive healthcare and social services and case management during pregnancy, delivery and postpartum period which are provided by multidisciplinary teams trained within the project’s framework. Project is being implemented in six oblast centers of Ukraine
* The name was changed due to ethical considerations.