This is the story from a peer counselor named Elena from Samara who helped an HIV positive woman give birth to a healthy trio.
Several mass media outlets remain convinced that if a woman had HIV, then her child will be passed the virus. This is the origin of such headlines as, “100% of sick mothers give birth to infected children.” Yet this, of course, is deeply prejudiced. To understand, it is enough to read the story of our peer counselor Elena from Samara, who helped an HIV positive woman give birth to healthy TRIPLETS:
This story began in 2016. One of the women who came to the mutual support group told me about an HIV-positive couple who decided long ago to have a child. When, at long last, the wife became pregnant, the ultrasound showed that she was expecting three babies at once. The woman was at a loss as she and her husband were in a difficult situation and she needed support… I asked to pass her my number. Vika (name changed) called almost immediately and we spoke at length on the phone, and then she came for a consultation.
Three years ago Vika, who is originally from another town, arrived in Samara. Having completed rehabilitation from chemical dependency in one of the religious centers, she got a job and met Andrei (name changed), her future husband. The difficulty came from the fact that neither of them were registered in Samara, and Vika quit her job when she learned she was pregnant. She had been working unofficially and therefore she was unable to defend her labour rights. So we decided to help her as much as we could. Carrying three babies to term is a challenge in itself, and with a diagnosis of HIV, it is even harder.
Throughout her entire pregnancy we called and chatted; Vika had many questions – about tests, treatment, giving birth, choosing a maternity ward. There were many fears about starting to take treatment, she was afraid of side effects. I, as a peer counselor, shared my personal experience as I myself once upon a time started to take ART during my 5th week of pregnancy. As a result the woman succeeded in overcoming her fears and started treatment…
For the final three months she was on bed rest so that the babies would gain weight. I brought vitamins and toiletries for pregnant women to her in the hospital. In the 34th week of her pregnancy they conducted a planned cesarean section and three healthy babies came into this world.
Then for another month and a half the babies and new mother stay at the hospital in the premature unit. I came to observe them and brought diapers, baby food (this was possible thanks to the responsiveness and support from the community of people living with HIV), and I looked into applying for child support for Vika. We found a woman who agreed to register Vika at her place temporarily so that she had an opportunity to apply for the subsidy to receive formula at the AIDS Center without having to leave Samara. Andrei has a job here and not long before the pregnancy they decided take out a mortgage to purchase a one-room apartment on the outskirts of the city which is almost finished being constructed.
Their family is very grateful for the help they received and Vika and I even were able to become friends and I am sure that we will continue to communicate.
Elena worked as a peer counselor in the Adherence to and Quality of ART, project which was implemented April – June 2017 in Ekaterinburg, Perm, Samara, Novosibirsk, and the Leningrad oblast. The project’s aim: to provide access for patients living with HIV to quality services at AIDS Centers including to counseling on issues of adherence and quality of ART.