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Children and HIV and AIDS

Real lives

Nina counsels others: HIV/AIDS is not the end

KHERSON OBLAST, Ukraine, December 2004 – Nina Gordeyeva is a young mother and social worker who works at Mangoost, a local foundation supported by UNICEF, which provides support to HIV-positive women.

“Three years ago, when I registered at the maternity hospital I found out that I was HIV-positive,” Nina says. “Of course I was absolutely horrified. I could not stop crying. I told my husband about it immediately. He refused to believe me and would not take an HIV test. Even now he is completely ignorant of his HIV status.

“I started working at Mangoost. I deal with a number of HIV-positive pregnant women, describing my own experience and explain that life is not over just because you know that you are HIV-positive.”

The rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in Ukraine in the past five years has given the country one of the highest infection rates in Europe. Expert estimates indicate that every hundredth Ukrainian is now HIV-positive, and the number of children born to HIV-positive mothers has increased dramatically, with about 300 cases each year in the worst-affected regions.

More and more frequently, HIV infection is being diagnosed among pregnant women who do not belong to high-risk groups. Many contract the disease from partners who are or were formerly injecting drug users. But Mangoost, with support from UNICEF, is helping to lower the rate of HIV transmission between mothers and their babies in Kherson Oblast. 

Nina and her husband were divorced after their child was born. “She is two and a half, a clever little girl who knows lots of rhymes, likes singing and will soon start going to nursery school. Most important of all – she is completely healthy.”

Nina often visits the maternity wards in Kherson where HIV-positive mothers give birth, to show them a real example of someone living with HIV and to give them hope that their children can be born virus-free.

Olga, one of the mothers whom Nina met, discovered that she was HIV-positive when she became pregnant. Nina helped her to overcome her fears and convinced Olga that with the right medical treatmeant she could safely go ahead and have her baby.

“At the maternity unit they gave me antiretroviral therapy, and the doctors and all the medical staff treated me with understanding and respect,” Olga said. “My daughter was born beautiful and healthy. My husband supports and helps me. We are planning to have a son once our daughter is a little bit older.”

Mangoost social workers and volunteers give psychological advice, do HIV prevention education and issue free needles and syringes.

Today there are 18 HIV-positive pregnant women registered at the Kherson Oblast HIV/AIDS Centre. All have had advice from medical specialists before and after their HIV test. They are treated with the drug Retrovir in their 36th week of pregnancy and their newborn babies receive the drug Viramun.

Dr.Yaroslav Ziatiuk, Chief Physician at the Centre, says that specialists and paediatricians help pregnant women to know their HIV status, administer antiretroviral medications if necessary and provide advice to HIV-positive mothers on the various options for feeding their babies.  Dr. Ziatiuk says these measures have helped to lower the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to 5 per cent or even less in Kherson. The prevention of vertical HIV transmission is a measure that not only saves lives, but revives hope for a healthy society.



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