When Zahrah* realized she was pregnant with her first baby, she was overjoyed. She couldn’t wait to share the news with her friends in her village in Nigeria.
But her excitement turned to fear when her husband revealed that he was HIV positive, and had known since before they were pregnant.
Still reeling from the news, Zahrah went for counselling and HIV testing. She discovered she also was HIV positive, and her unborn baby was at risk of contracting the virus.
HIV and AIDS are huge challenges in Nigeria. Nearly 2 million people are currently living with HIV in the country, making it the second largest HIV epidemic in the world. One of the reasons for this is that many women have difficulty accessing medical care during pregnancy. Antenatal care can significantly reduce the transmission of HIV from mother to baby.
One of Tearfund’s partners, the Faith Alive Foundation (FAF), is passionate about preventing HIV especially among pregnant women and their children. They work to prevent new infections and provide access to treatment, care and support to people who are HIV positive. One of the ways they do this is through their “Mother Buddies” program, which supports women like Zahrah throughout their pregnancies.
“Mother buddies stand in the gap of education for expectant mothers. [They] befriend these women and accompany them through their pregnancy - socially, practically, spiritually. They pray with the women, help them with costs for travel to the clinic, and give them moral support.” said Paul Mershak, who oversees Tearfund’s work in Nigeria.
Zahrah’s story took a different path when Faith Alive Foundation provided her with treatment to prevent her transmitting HIV to her child.
At six weeks old, her baby was tested and found to be HIV-free. Zahrah wept with joy. She has forgiven her husband and says they are now a happy family, caring and supporting one another. Zahrah herself has become a Mother Buddy, and now helps other women in her community by encouraging them to receive antenatal care and HIV testing.
*name changed to protect identity
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