aidsribbonsNomzamo Angel Maluka (19) from Msogwaba village has lived with her grandmother in Mpumalanga since the age of 14. Here she shares her story of being diagnosed with HIV and how giving birth to a healthy baby helped her to embrace life.

I was dating my boyfriend when I was in Grade 11. Our relationship progressed faster than expected and after three weeks of dating we had sex without using a condom.

In May 2011 , I remember it was a Saturday, my boyfriend and I visited our family doctor because I was feeling ill and we didn’t know what was wrong. The doctor advised for me to undergo an HIV and pregnancy test. I agreed. The HIV test came back negative, but the pregnancy test was positive.

When I was two months pregnant, I visited Msogwaba Clinic to start antenatal care. I was told to test for HIV and I had no problem undergoing the test again. However, I was surprised when I was diagnosed HIV positive, because the previous test had been negative. I was told that the first test had taken place during a window period which is why it would have come back negative at the time.

For a month I wanted to die, it wasn’t easy to accept my HIV status. I don’t want to lie. I was crushed when I heard that I was HIV positive but there was nothing that I could do to get a different result. I told myself that’s life anyway.

I almost stopped attending the antenatal care clinic because I saw my neighbour in the same prevention of mother to child transmission programme group at the clinic. Around the community we know her as the guru of HIV/AIDS. I looked down with shame on my face, but she just said: ‘I don’t worry, we are here with the same purpose and I have been living with HIV for eight years’.

Blood was taken to measure my CD4 count and I was enrolled into the prevention of mother-to-child transmission programme. From 14 weeks of pregnancy I was given zidovudine (AZT) and by 28 weeks I was also given nevirapine (NVP) as a single dose to drink when labour started. During labour I drank my zidovudine (AZT) every three hours. My baby boy was given NVP syrup at birth.

All my pain and suffering, not only my labour pain but my pains about being HIV positive-ended the moment I held my baby boy in my arms. My son’s father’s support made me strong day-by-day and kept me alive. He was my rock when I needed someone who could understand my pains.

Adhering to my medicine was the one thing that I knew mattered most in my life while I was pregnant because I knew my baby would be born HIV negative if I did it correctly. Once he was born it was not easy to stick to exclusive formula feeding, but in the end it paid off because at six weeks he underwent a PCR test and it came back negative.

Wanting a good life for my baby boy gave me the strength to fight on, so that both of us would be alive today.