By Meredith Carr
What's your favorite part of being a mom? What do you love and admire most about an awesome mom in your life? Help honor the invaluable role of moms and celebrate the myriad joys of motherhood at MOMentos or include #MOMentos in your social posts and they will be added to the collection of magic #MOMentos.
I don’t have a biological child myself, but since he was born, I have been godmother and “second mom” to Sam, a 14-year-old boy who is the love of my life. It all started when I was mentoring Sam’s mother, Keyona, through a non-profit program that paired businesswomen with pregnant teens. She was sixteen when she gave birth, and the first time I saw that pudgy little baby (nicknamed “Juicy”), I was smitten!
Keyona didn’t have a stable home life, so I helped a lot with Sam – babysitting him at my office while she looked for work, taking him to the pediatrician, buying him food and clothing. Through Keyona and Sam, I have witnessed firsthand how poverty, limited access to healthcare and lack of information can impact the quality of care both moms and babies receive.
This is especially true of mothers living with HIV. Keyona and Sam were lucky – she wasn’t exposed to HIV when she got pregnant. While the statistics have improved in the U.S. and Europe (fewer than 200 children a year are infected with HIV), the global situation is dire (as reported by UNAIDS in its Global Report, 2013):
- More than 700 children under 15 years of age are infected with HIV every day, most as a result of mother-to-child transmission of the virus.
- In 2012, only 62 percent of pregnant women living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries received the medicines they needed to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies.
- Without treatment, almost half of newborns infected with HIV will die before their second birthdays.
This year, The AFA has intensified its efforts to educate women and men living with HIV about safely becoming parents and to eliminate the stigma of HIV. Through our HIV Parenthood Initiative – funded with a generous grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation – we are providing direct outreach to HIV patients, as well as to the clinicians, case workers and others who help to manage their conditions.
We are also partnering with other non-profits who deliver help and hope to prospective moms and dads living with HIV. One of these groups is the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF). EGPAF seeks to end pediatric HIV/AIDS through research, advocacy, and prevention and treatment programs. My favorite story this Mother’s Day is about one of EGPAF’s global ambassadors – Fortunata Kasege. Here is her story:
An HIV-Positive Mom’s Story of Hope
Fortunata was 22 years old and had just arrived in the United States from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She knew exactly what she wanted – to get a journalism degree and work experience before going back home and working as a national and freelance international journalist. She was a newlywed with a baby on the way in a new environment. Her life was just beginning.
Fortunata was almost 30 weeks into her pregnancy and had never had a check-up. Her mother insisted that she visit a prenatal clinic as soon as she arrived. Everything was going well until she received her results from the clinic – she was told that she had tested positive for HIV. But she was lucky. Her healthy baby girl, Florida, was born just a few months later. Florida was HIV-negative.
Through her experience living with HIV and raising a HIV-negative child, Fortunata developed a deep desire to become a part of advocacy and community outreach. Today she uses her personal story to educate people about HIV and AIDS, give hope to those who are infected and affected, and to eliminate stigma and stereotyping. You can read more here about Fortunata and Florida and EGPAF’s other ambassadors.
By also sharing your MOMentos, you can join the global movement to give more moms a chance to share many healthy, happy Mother's Days with their kids.
Meredith Carr is Project Manager for The American Fertility Association’s HIV Parenthood Initiative
"Today I use my personal story to educate people about HIV and AIDS, give hope to those who are infected and affected, and to eliminate stigma and stereotyping."