Violet Nkandu, 32, is a widow and a mother of six: four girls and two boys. Nkandu’s husband, who was the father of her first five children, died in 2000. In the years after her husband died, Nkandu was often sick and went to the hospital frequently. She didn’t know she was HIV positive until she became severely ill in 2007 and was tested for the virus. She needed to start anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment immediately, but it wouldn’t be an instant fix. It would take time for her immune system to recover.
‘I became a burden’
For a while, Nkandu had support from her family while she began her ARV treatment. “I chose [to get treatment in] Kitwe where my brother was so he could assist me,” Nkandu says. “I was in and out of hospital, and because of that I became a burden to my brother, who later gave up and stopped supporting me.”
But Nkandu still needed care, food and help with her children while she regained her strength. “I would be dead today if it were not for World Vision’s intervention to help me with food, and to care for me,” she says.
A few surprises
Eventually, Nkandu’s health improved. She started a small business selling vegetables, which helps her buy food for her children and keeps them in school. World Vision has also continued to support her in various ways, including building a two-room house for her family so she didn’t have to continue struggling to pay rent. In 2008, Nkandu met a man who promised to marry her. Things looked promising for Nkandu’s family.
Then she became pregnant. A month after she told her boyfriend that she was carrying his child, he left. She has not heard from him since.
“I was worried when I became pregnant, knowing that I was HIV positive, and the man abandoned me,” Nkandu says. “I didn’t know what to do, but I shared my burden with World Vision caregivers who encouraged me to go to Zamtan PMTCT [Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission] Clinic.”
Half of all children living with HIV die before their second birthday, making it critical to prevent these children from ever getting HIV in the first place.
Midwives at the clinic explained to Nkandu that with the right prenatal care, medications, birth procedures and postnatal care, it is possible to greatly reduce the likelihood that a mother would pass HIV on to her child.
Nkandu went to all her appointments and carefully followed all the health guidelines the clinic staff members gave her.
“After delivery, I was told the baby was HIV negative, but I didn’t believe them until now [six months later]. She has been tested again and found negative,” Nkandu says. “The baby has been breastfeeding and I stopped the feeding in September, as advised at the clinic so that the baby is not exposed to the virus.”
Patricia Mubanga, one of the four midwives at the PMTCT clinic, praised Nkandu for following all the recommended health guidelines. “I’m really impressed with this woman because she is the best example of mothers that adhere to our instructions for the well-being of the children that are born HIV-negative from HIV-positive mothers,” Mubanga says.