Living Positively: A Mother Finds Hope

When Grace found out she had HIV, she wanted to end her life. You helped her find her strength—and today she’s giving hope to other women.

Grace couldn’t wait to hear the doctor’s news.

It was a hot, humid day in Mtwapa, and the journey to the clinic had been tiring. Grace barely noticed the heat. She was thrilled to be expecting her first child, and excited to hear the results of her antenatal checkup.

The doctor’s news changed everything.

Grace receiving counseling

You might remember another Pathways story about Grace and her husband, Benson. How neither one knew they were HIV positive until Grace’s checkup. How they worked hard to help their child be born HIV negative. But for Grace, medical worries were only one part of the overwhelming emotion she felt when she learned her status.

“I was so discouraged,” Grace remembers. “I wanted to kill myself.”

In Grace’s community, people living with HIV face serious stigma. “People are afraid to go to the clinic to get their drugs, because they think their friends will see them,” explains Dr. Janet Omyonga, a Pathfinder in Kenya. “They don’t come in until they get very sick, and by then, it’s too late.”

FIGHTING STIGMA WITH SUPPORT

HIV is not a death sentence. People who start and adhere to their treatment can live long, healthy lives. Pregnant women who follow a doctor’s advice reduce their chances of mother-to-child transmission to only 5%, instead of the 45% they can face without care. But millions of people still don’t know about their options.

That’s where you come in.

Pathfinder’s programs are making voluntary testing, counseling, and treatment accessible to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

“In Kenya, HIV testing is becoming more prevalent,” Janet explains. “We even have a door-to-door testing service now. We’re making sure providers have the information they need, so they can help people understand how important preventative care is—that if they take their medicine, they won’t get sick. We’re also working to reduce stigma.”

Another thing women like Grace need? To know they’re not alone.

Grace and her mentor mother, Jacinta

Grace’s doctor partnered her with a mentor mother, another woman living positively. She had a powerful message for Grace: I’ve gone through what you are going through. Your life is important. You can live.

Grace beams as she remembers hearing those words. “It changed my life,” she says.

With her mentor mother’s encouragement, she joined a support group. “The first time, I was so shy,” she recalls. “I was afraid to say anything. Then the other women started talking. I couldn’t believe it. They weren’t afraid to share their status. They had babies that were negative. They weren’t sick. They were happy.”

SHARING HOPE

Grace kept coming back to the group. Slowly, she began sharing her story, too. “I feel good when I am with them because we are going through the same thing,” she says. “We are talking the same language. When I’m down, they make me strong. We teach each other. We encourage each other.”

Support Group

Under her doctor’s care, Grace gave birth to a healthy daughter. When she received baby Yvonne’s 18-month test results—the final test to determine her status—Grace hurried to tell her new friends. “My daughter is negative.”

The support Grace received changed her life: support from the doctors, from her group and her mentor mother, and from people like you. “One day I decided, ‘I will stand up and be strong,’” she says. “Now I feel like I can make it, whatever comes my way.”

At the group meeting today, Grace doesn’t sit quietly. “I love to tell my story so I can help someone else,” she says. “So many people are facing stigma. I want them to come out positively and stop the fear. I tell them, come out, come out, it is so important to start taking the drug! You have children to look after. You have your life to live.”

Grace smiles as her daughter practices her numbers in a notebook. Yvonne is now six years old. She loves reading and fancy dresses, and she wants to be a doctor.

“God willing, I will make sure she gets all the education she wants, and a good life,” says Grace. “One day soon I will tell her my story. She will know that I am courageous because I made it. I made it.”

Today, Grace is becoming a mentor mother. She wants you to know how much your support has changed her life—and that she has found a new path in helping others. “I tell them that HIV doesn’t kill,” she says resolutely. “I tell them the importance of life. Just because you have HIV, your life does not stop.”

Grace takes her daughter’s hand. “It’s not the end of the journey.”

You can help make sure HIV is not a death sentence. When you give to Pathfinder, women like Grace can access lifesaving medical care and psychosocial support to lead happy, healthy lives while living positively.

 

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