When it comes to giving birth in Australia, the biggest thing we need to decide is whether to ‘go public or private’. Mothers in rural Zimbabwe do not have this choice. They live in poverty, and most give birth on the floor in their huts.
North Shore Mums wants to help raise awareness for the amazing work that a local charity AFAP Action on Poverty is doing. They are trying to raise $50,000 to build a maternal waiting home in Zimbabwe to stop the spread of HIV to babies.
Recently, an AFAP field officer interviewed a mother who is infected by HIV. Ellen’s son Kerod was born HIV-free thanks to lifesaving care and medication they received at the maternal waiting home. This is her story, in her own words:
‘My name is Ellen, I am 32 years old and live with my husband, Tobias, and my four children in a remote village in Zimbabwe.
I had my first three children at home as I could not afford to pay for the hospital fees and the maternal waiting home had not yet been built.
My experiences were very uncomfortable as I had to deliver on the floor – we had no cotton wool and I had to use my own razor blade and thread for the babies’ umbilical cords.
There was no privacy at all. My mother-in-law was my birth attendant and she had to call over other village members, some of which I did not like, to come and assist her with the delivery. I was very lucky I did not encounter any complications as we would not have been able to detect or cater for them.
I first found out I was HIV positive before I became pregnant with my youngest son, Kerod. I suffered from herpes and requested an HIV test where I found out that I was HIV positive. I informed my husband and the first few days were not easy. There was a lot of tension and blame in our relationship, but I managed to convince him to go the clinic and get tested. He found out that he was also HIV positive. We received counselling as a couple and started to live positively from then on.
I found out I was pregnant shortly after and I was very fearful for my baby. Fortunately, my community had been involved in building a maternal waiting home with AFAP. They provided me with free access to care and treatment that saved my baby’s life.
I had Kerod at the maternal waiting home in August 2013. The staff were open and friendly and I was not discriminated against because of my HIV status. It was very neat and it was safe to stay there. Clean and safe water was readily available and there was no shortage of sanitary equipment. It was a private and relaxed environment and I got time to rest unlike at my home where I have a lot of chores to do.
During the birth of Kerod, I had a long labour and lost a lot of blood. As I was pushing, the baby became silent and I could no longer feel the baby moving. If I was not giving birth at the maternal waiting home, both the baby and I would have died. I am so happy that my baby is alive and does not have HIV thanks to the treatment we received at the maternal birth home.’
How can you help?
Every mother wants to give her child a chance at a healthy and happy future; however, underprivileged HIV positive mothers in Zimbabwe do not have this opportunity. You can change that. With a donation today you can help St Leonard’s based charity AFAP Action on Poverty build a new maternal waiting home where mothers can give birth safely and get their babies the medication they need to stop the transmission of HIV. Click here to donate.