One Woman’s Quest to End HIV Transmission of Mother to Child Community by Community

Friday, March 6, 2020
Joan at her workplace at Mombasa Tudor health Centre awaiting clients.
Photo: USAID

“I’ve lived with HIV for 18 years and am still going strong,” says Joan. "As a mentor, I can influence behavior change through meaningful messages and encourage more involvement of people living with HIV.”

Joan learned of her HIV status in 2002 when a doctor suggested she take an HIV test. She was not responding to medication for flu-like symptoms. “I was devastated when I tested positive and frustrated when there was no one to talk to about my feelings or the way forward with regard to antiretroviral therapy”, she says. 

At 23 years, Joan had to make tough choices. “I had to grow up at that moment,” she shared.

With support from her family, she was able to make regular visits at Mombasa Tudor Sub County Health Center for medical checks and antiretroviral therapy. It was during these visits that she met newly diagnosed women and girls attending an ante-natal (prenatal) clinic. They were filled with fear for themselves and their unborn babies. 

Joan’s desire to support people living with HIV, especially women and girls, led her to disclose her HIV status. “Identifying myself with the people I wanted to help was the only way to reach them and earn their trust,” she says. “Opening up wasn’t easy, it took a lot of courage because of stigmatization but, I felt at peace every time I shared my story with others.”

Through USAID’s Afya Pwani program, Joan was selected to lead the Center’s first Mentor Mothers program where mothers who passed through transmission services, tested positive, enrolled and stayed in HIV treatment, became coaches and mentors to other women and girls. 

Joan educates mothers on care for their own health and how to protect their unborn babies from the virus, HIV treatment literacy, referral uptake, and ways of preventing new infections. She goes above and beyond to meet the needs of both her peers and young mothers to ensure that they feel supported to remain on treatment. In her free time, she visits households with patients who have defaulted on medical checks and treatment.

Since September 2018, USAID’s Afya Pwani program has supported the provision of quality HIV services to 872,597 Coastal residents. More than 48,000, who tested positive for HIV, are on treatment. In addition, the rate of pregnant mothers getting tested is on the rise. 99.7% of pregnant mothers in the Coastal region are getting tested.

Joan represents thousands of HIV-positive mentors whose acts of courage are contributing to the dream of Kenya’s future generations being free of HIV. USAID stands with all mentors and mothers in their efforts to make HIV a thing of the past and is committed to working side by side with Kenyans like Joan.

Last updated: May 28, 2020

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