Having HIV is not the end of life, says affected person

Health & HIV/AIDS

With smiles and openness to people, Moriku Penina, a person living with the HIV virus has said testing positive and living with the virus does not mean the end of someone’s life, but just the beginning of another life.

With smiles and openness to people, Moriku Penina, a person living with the HIV virus has said testing positive and living with the virus does not mean the end of someone’s life, but just the beginning of another life.


She says taking treatment keeps her strong to live longer and continue on with normal life.


“HIV is not the end of someone. HIV does not define what a person is. HIV is very normal,” said Penina, 33, a mother of two children. She gave birth to the second child while living with the virus.


“So long as you go for treatment you can continue with your normal life,” she told the media on Thursday in Yei.


Penina said she has lived with the virus for seven years now since she tested positive. She recalled that she realized her status when she was pregnant with her seven year old girl who is now at middle class in school. The daughter is negative.


“I realized in the year 2008 when I was pregnant. I had come for antenatal and I was tested positive,’ she added.


She said ‘she wasn’t happy and got stressed’ when tested positive, but coped up with life through the help of counselors. Penina explained that she lost her husband in 2008 before giving birth to the second child while living with the virus.


“With the support of counselors, I had to cope up with life and finally, I even became a counselor,” she said, adding that her family has remained supportive since she was tested positive.


Penina, a mother of two children (a boy and girl) revealed that antenatal care compelled her to know her status for the first time, even though she did not show the signs. She delivered safely at hospital with the baby girl being negative.


“I had no signs,” she said. “Actually, it was the pregnancy which helped me. If it was not the pregnancy, I’m sure up to now I would not be tested.”


To deliver safely like Penina, St Bakhita Health Centre midwife, Betty Agio urges pregnant mothers to always deliver in hospitals so that health experts will properly act to avoid blood contact during the cutting of the placenta.


“From mother to child, transmission of HIV is through cutting of the placenta when the blood of the baby comes in contact with the blood of the mother,” she said.


She also called on mothers to desist from traditional delivery and go for antenatal care to know more on prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and other health related issues.


Penina said after delivery, she decided to introduce bottle feeding to the child to prevent the child from infection after breastfeeding for a while.


“It was risky to breastfeed a child for so long. My child was on bottle feeding,” she said.


The jobless single mother says she was raised up and educated by her aunt after losing both parents who died from other diseases.


According to the antiretroviral treatment centre that covers Yei, Morobo and Lainya counties, Penina is one of the 3,353 people living with the virus under care at the centre since its inception in 2008.


The number includes 1,887 men and 1,908 women, both above fourteen years old and 187 children less than 14 years of age, Chaplain Yuga Emmanuel, the centre’s clinical officer, said.


“We have at least a fraction of refugees among this care, more than 50 of them,” he referred to the refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, settled in Lasu payam.


Yuga added that the centre is serving a catchment population of more than 500, 000 people.


The clinical officer called for establishment of more treatment centres, for persons living with the virus to access health services easily. He also said lack of awareness contributed to growing stigma and discrimination, leaving some people living with the virus to dodge treatment.


“Stigma is still high in youth because here, you rarely get youth,” he said.


Chris Issa Gordon, the county assistant commissioner for HIV and AIDS commission, said South Sudan Red Cross is conducting mobile antiretroviral treatment provision to people living with the virus in Lainya.


He added that the key populations lack enough knowledge on use of condoms and other preventive measures. He hailed efforts shown by World Food Programme and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for keeping the centre stocked for the last two years, enabling people living with the virus to access services.


Issa pointed out that commercial sex workers, long truck drivers and the youth are key populations at risk as infections continue increasing.


Issa encouraged people living with the virus to continue with their treatment and avoid defaulting, which may increase chances of not living longer.


“When you indulge in unprotected sex with other people, you are not only infecting the person but also putting yourself at risk,” he advised.


South Sudan has a national average prevalence of 2.6% according to 2012 antenatal care (ANC) sentinel surveillance.More than 90% of children acquire HIV through mother to child transmission (MTCT).


Prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) is one of the priorities of the nation with its HIV and AIDS strategic plan aiming to reduce MTCT to less than 5% (from about 30% currently).


UNAIDS goals by 2015 are geared to realize universal access to antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV who are eligible for treatment, elimination of vertical transmission of HIV, and reduction of AIDS-related maternal mortality by half.

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