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Mozambique, 24 March 2016: A mother’s loving care

A parent's ability to care for her child is dependent upon her ability to care for herself. For Alzira, a mother with HIV, that is no simple task.

© UNICEF/MOZA2013-00288/Alexandre Marques
As a mother with HIV, and with limited means, Alzira has not only protected her baby from the disease, but she has also cared for her own health, as best she can, and with the help of many around her.

 
TETE, Mozambique, 24 March 2016 – A parent’s ability to care for her child is dependent upon her ability to care for herself. For Alzira, a mother with HIV, that is no simple task.

In the middle of the afternoon in the town of Changara, in Tete province, the temperature is over 40 degrees. Inside a tiny house, with most of its roof missing, a young woman called Alzira, sweeps her kitchen floor, then fetches a smouldering branch from a neighbour’s fire to start one of her own. As the fire lights, she puts water on to boil, and chops vegetables. In the next room, her 18-month-old baby, Abel, sleeps on a mattress.

“I found out I had HIV when I was pregnant,” Alzira says. “I wasn't very surprised because I used to fall sick frequently.” She is one of at least four mothers in the community who are HIV positive. Like most HIV positive mothers throughout the country, Alzira discovered her status during an antenatal care visit.

Survey data show that more and more women in Mozambique are choosing to test for HIV. In fact, the rate of HIV testing has almost doubled from 2008 to 2011, from 15 to 26 percent, and effective diagnosis and treatment is helping those who have the virus to live longer.

Alzira will be taking anti-retroviral treatment (ART) for the rest of her life and, as long as she is breastfeeding Abel, he will, too. “Soon, he will stop breastfeeding, then I will test him again,” says Alzira. The results of this test will determine his ongoing treatment. Abel is one of very few children in Mozambique who currently receive ART, though this is slowly improving.

Back home in Alzira’s kitchen, community health worker, Brejinev Jose Josefo, stands in the doorway. He has been visiting her since he was alerted that Alzira had stopped Abel’s ART. He managed to convince her to recommence the treatment, and she now administers medication morning and evening to herself and her baby.

Despite her hardships, she acknowledges that the treatment has helped keep her healthy and able to care for her child, and cope with other difficulties imposed on her by poverty. “My health is one challenge among many others,” she says matter-of-factly.

In many communities, UNICEF has helped women such as Alzira form peer support groups, which help each other with daily, practical matters, as well as provide moral and emotional support. This is almost as important to their well-being as the medical treatment they receive. “We share our experiences of caring for our babies and ourselves. This frees me from the burden,” says Alzira. They also take turns collecting the medicines at the health centre, which she says helps her stick to the treatment schedule.

Parents’ ability to care for their children is entirely dependent upon their ability to care for themselves. As a mother with HIV, and with limited means, Alzira has not only protected her baby from the disease, but she has also cared for her own health, as best she can, and with the help of many around her. The well-being of mother and child will always require the help and engagement of an entire community, both near and far.

For more information, please contact:
Claudio Fauvrelle
Tel +258 21 481 100
email: cfauvrelle@unicef.org

 

 
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