On January 30, 2018, Catherine’s second-born daughter was confirmed HIV negative.
A clinician smiled as she brought Catherine into the treatment room, embracing her to celebrate the good news. Ever since she realized she was pregnant, Catherine had worked hard to ensure the baby, Charity, wouldn’t contract HIV. She received continuous support from AMS staff to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of the virus, and faithfully adhered to her medication.
“I’m so relieved,” Catherine said. Charity smiled in her arms, almost as if she was relieved, too.
The joy in the room was tangible. But it hadn’t always been this way for Catherine and her family.
When Catherine gave birth to her first-born daughter, she went to live with her mother and extended family in the village. As Catherine recovered from the delivery, her family helped her with the baby. Her husband stayed in Kampala to work – and during that time, he contracted HIV from another woman.
Catherine returned to Kampala after three months in the village, unaware of her husband’s infidelity or illness. She put all her time and energy into caring for her daughter. And when the two of them fell sick, she assumed it was a temporary bug, or at worst, malaria.
Catherine tested HIV positive at a health facility near her home. Her neighbour urged her to get another test at Alive Medical Services – and after her diagnosis was confirmed, the doctors tested Catherine’s daughter, who was also diagnosed HIV positive.
“I was shocked, but there was nothing to be done except to begin treating myself and my daughter,” Catherine said. “I convinced my husband to get tested, but he never accepted his diagnosis. For me, the only option was to stay strong for my child.”
Catherine has since separated from her husband, who refused to get treatment and was inhibiting Catherine’s own progress. By continuing to visit AMS for check-ups, Catherine’s viral load is suppressed, and her first-born daughter – now three years old – is stable and healthy. Catherine now works as a farmer in her village, where she grows fresh produce for her family and sells whatever is left.
“My advice to other HIV-positive single mothers is to do as much as possible to support your children,” Catherine said.