Agnes and Mphatso receiving their bi-weekly visit from CRP Molen
Agnes and Mphatso receiving their bi-weekly visit from CRP Molen Nandi Bwanali/One Community

Keeping Children Living with HIV Healthy: Agnes and Mphatso Simenti's

Aug 13 2018

Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) Option B+ is one of Malawi’s greatest success stories. Through this program, pregnant women living with HIV are given antiretroviral treatment to prevent their infants from acquiring HIV. After the child is born, both the mother and infant are placed on treatment to avoid possible transmission of the infection through breastfeeding.

Thanks to PMTCT Option B+ services, about 97% of pregnant women in the country are tested for HIV during their antenatal care visits and, if they test positive, 91% of them are linked to treatment and care (Source: Ministry of Health Intergrated HIV Program Report April - June 2017). Although these services have positively contributed to the decline of new infections among children born to HIV- positive mothers, retention of mothers on treatment particularly following delivery is still a challenge. One of the reasons for this problem is the personal acceptance of the mother’s HIV status.

This was the case for 40- year-old Agnes Simenti who tested positive in 2012 when she was pregnant with her last-born child Mphatso.

“I had just lost my husband, so the news of an HIV- positive status was not something I was prepared to handle; life was already difficult for us. Besides that, I felt healthy,” shares Agnes.

What Agnes was not aware of was the fatal risk she had exposed her child to: Between one half and two-thirds of HIV positive children are likely to die of HIV/AIDS within the first 2 years if not treated (Source: Bulletin of World Health Organisation, 2011). Fortunately for Agnes, Mphatso survived. But, as time went by, both Agnes and Mphatso’s health deteriorated. Agnes constantly fought off shingles, headaches, and malaria-like symptoms. She had lost a lot of weight and was often bedridden. Mphatso grew weaker and thinner and complained of body pains.

In September 2016, the Simenti household was visited by One Community’s Community CRP Triza Molen.

“I found her lying on the bed. She could not even wake up to greet me. I conducted HIV risk assessment and counselled her on HIV testing services,” shares TrizaAgnes agreed to be tested and, the following day, a Community Engagement Facilitator (CEF) visited the household to test Agnes and Mphatso. 

This time Agnes fully accepted the positive results and both her and her son were immediately linked to treatment.

“Although I sometimes regret not making the right decision early, I am glad that I now know that treatment works. I wish I had a microphone so that I could testify and encourage people to go for testing every day,” Agnes exclaims.

Agnes is now leading a healthy life and is able to take on various farming jobs to provide for her family. Mphatso is also thriving and he is a picture of good health. He now goes to school and has the energy to play with his friends.

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