A family's journey of hope
The Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission-Plus (PMTCT-Plus) project in Uganda has helped extend the parent-child relationship for more than 540 children whose parents are living with HIV and AIDS. Charles, Nancy and their children are one example of how PMTCT, social support and treatment create hope for a family.**
Sitting outside on three wooden stools, Charles, Nancy and Immaculate discuss this season’s harvest of ground nuts and inquire about one another’s families. From afar, they would seem to be a group of friends spending an afternoon together.
In reality, Immaculate is Charles and Nancy’s social worker for the PMTCT-Plus project — a model for providing sustainable community-level protection, care and treatment to individuals and families affected by HIV — and today she has come to check on their progress taking anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). Bringing out a pill counter, Immaculate sees that her two clients have correctly taken their pills. But while Nancy and Charles are now living positively together, life hasn’t always been easy for them.
Nancy smiles sadly when she tells her story. She explains that three of her children died from fevers, and she didn’t know why. She began to suspect that she was infected with HIV and, in 2001, she tested positive for HIV. She remembers the stress and loneliness she felt in those days, and in 2005 her fears increased when she became pregnant again.
When she went to the health center for antenatal care, Nancy found the PMTCT-Plus project. She now says, “For me, having tested and being in PMTCT-Plus, I have benefited more than if I had not tested because I can plan for my family.”
The PMTCT-Plus project is a collaborative effort, drawing upon the vast expertise of thirteen governmental and nongovernmental partnering institutions, including Plan Uganda, to develop a comprehensive program for the prevention of HIV transmission from parents to children.
Through PMTCT-Plus, Nancy delivered a baby who is not infected with HIV. Also, through the project, Nancy was given the support she needed to bring her husband Charles to test.
This is Charles’ side of the story: “I took long to test. My wife told me that she was positive, and I was shocked. When she told me to go test, I said I would go, but it took me three years. The social worker came a few times to the house and then one day I saw my kids and said, 'How will they manage if I die?' That’s when I decided to go for testing.”
Both HIV-positive, Nancy and Charles receive ARVs through the PMTCT-Plus project, and they are each other’s treatment supporters. Through the Africa 2000 Network component of the project, they have grown beans and ground nuts, creating food security for their family. Also a member of the Post Test Club, Nancy has learned about succession planning, made friends, and joined a Village Savings and Loans Association.
Meanwhile, with his strength renewed, Charles has returned to work selling onions. He says, “The drugs helped me to push on, and now I see my child in Senior 2.” Nancy adds, “Some people move around and say that I am sick. But for me, I can just laugh and even sing to show that I am happy.”
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** To protect confidentiality, original names have been changed
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