The waiting, the frustrations and the 18-month waling of joy
Counselling HIV positive mothers-to-be
Some are getting up from their chair wailing so loud that people think I'm hurting her. But this is the sound of happiness.
There are some really tough days at work for Hellen Piol. The toughest days are when women learn they are HIV positive, but Hellen is there with them.
“I teach them how to read the result before we do the test. If I am the one to give the news, they might not believe me and discard the results. By giving them the knowledge before we start, they know what they see before them is the truth,” Hellen explains.
“Some women cry when they see the test is positive, others go silent.”
The next step is finding ways to live with the news and the disease. Medication is the practical part and it is free. Dealing with the stigma is the difficult part. Many people just diagnosed with HIV, believe that their lives are over, which often causes depressions. One of Hellen's key messages when counselling HIV positive women is that you can live a good life with HIV and that includes continuing building your family.
With today's medication and counselling, HIV positive mothers can give birth to health babies. Yet, the treatment is not 100 per cent. Therefore, the child is tested several times after birth, and the final and concluding test is at 18 months.
You could hear us from the other side of the hospital. We were laughing and crying out of relief when the 18-month test for my son was negative.
Over 300 mothers have been sitting in Hellen's office since she started in 2013, how many hours in total she can't tell. During pregnancy, birth and follow-ups, a special bond is formed between Hellen and the women she is helping and she shares the joy when the child is testing negative. That feeling makes up for all the difficult days at work.
I know, I saved the life of a human being.
In South Sudan, an estimated 2.5 per cent the adult population and 16,000 children under the age of 15 are HIV positive. With the right treatment and counselling, HIV positive mothers can prevent the virus from being passed down to their child during pregnancy and birth.
The UNICEF supported prevention of mother-to-child transmission programme for HIV in South Sudan is supported by the Global Fund.