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Zambia, 3 February 2011: Mother-Baby Pack launched to help prevent HIV transmission

© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0129/Nesbitt
Rodah Banda holds her son Joseph, 2, while speaking at the national launch of the Mother-Baby Pack in the city of Kabwe, located in Zambia's Central Province.

LUSAKA, Zambia, 3 February 2011 – Two years ago, Rodah Banda had to make the biggest decision in her life – whether to terminate her pregnancy or leave her husband, who threatened to end their marriage if she enrolled in a programme designed to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Today, Ms. Banda is the proud mother of Joseph Banda, a healthy two-year-old boy whose HIV status is negative. Joseph was seen running up and down, sucking on a red lollipop, smiling and talking during the recent launch of the UNICEF ‘Mother-Baby Pack’ in Kabwe, the capital of Zambia’s Central Province.

The Mother-Baby Pack is a take-home box of drugs designed for women and children who have no access to conventional, high-quality HIV prevention and treatment. It contains all the anti-retroviral (ARV) medicines and antibiotics required to protect the health of one mother and child. The medicines are pre-measured and packaged to make it easy for women to administer them correctly.

Ms. Banda, 36, told her moving story to an audience gathered for the launch of the pack, an innovative approach to prevention of mother-to-child transmission, or PMTCT.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0052/Nesbitt
UNICEF Representative in Zambia Dr. Iyorlumun Uhaa speaks at the national launch of the Mother-Baby Pack.

Pregnant and living with HIV

“I discovered that I was HIV-positive during a visit to a health centre after coming down with an illness that was so critical that I had visual problems,” she said. “I was devastated …but the nurse at the health centre counselled me on how I could live a healthy life and prolong my life by participating in medical services available for HIV-positive people.”

The nurse told Ms. Banda that she needed to bring her husband to the health centre so that he could also undergo counselling and HIV testing. But her husband, a local pastor, refused to follow the medical advice, fearing public exposure of his HIV-positive status. He even threatened to leave his wife if she continued to go to the clinic, and she stopped going.

“While all this was happening in early 2008, I discovered that I was pregnant,” recalled Ms. Banda. “I was uncertain about the future of my unborn baby due to my HIV status and contemplated whether to terminate my pregnancy or visit the health centre for medical intervention – with the risk of losing my marriage.”



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