Sydelle WIllow Smith
Edna Maulana with her PMTCT support group.
Edna Maulana enrolled in MSF’s prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) program in Malawi, where HIV-positive pregnant women are immediately put on lifelong antiretroviral treatment (Option B+). She received advice and support from the MSF-supported peer counselors or “peer mothers” at Thyolo District Hospital. “When they told me the news, I was very worried and afraid. I was only going to the clinic to find out if I was pregnant and not to be hearing this kind of news. ... I was afraid. I thought ‘How am I going to tell my husband about this? Do I tell him in person? What if he tells me this is the end of our marriage?’ They also gave me condoms. ‘How do I present condoms to him? Where do I start?’ As I said, I had great fear.”
“ I was also afraid for the child. But then I was in contact with the peer mothers. They were the ones who gave me thorough counseling. They told me, ‘You don’t have to be afraid. There’s a program that helps mothers to prevent infecting their unborn babies.’ They told me it works, so I believed them. But I said ‘Well I’ve never experienced it, so let’s see how it goes.’”
Edna went through a difficult period when her husband turned his back on her and she took refuge with her relatives, who supported her. Eventually, she says, he came back to her and wanted to know how they could keep their baby from becoming HIV-positive. Edna took good care of her daughter and breast-fed her exclusively. The child tested negative for HIV at six weeks and negative again at one year old.
“When I went back at two years they tested her again and told me, ‘Your child is definitely negative. Thank you for your great work and care of this baby.’ I was extremely happy when they told me that.”