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Living with HIV: One Mother’s Journey

Posted By Caroline Mwinemwesigwa On May 17, 2013 @ 12:29 am In Country Staff | 2 Comments

women and hiv Hannifah has suffered much. Born in Uganda with HIV/AIDS, she lost her mother when she was only a month old. She was a very sickly child, always being taken to hospital. Her father considered her a burden.

Hannifah’s father remarried, and when Hannifah and his new wife had one too many misunderstandings, Hannifah was thrown out of the house at only 17. With nowhere to go, she lived in abandoned, unfinished buildings.

Along the way, she met Mike and started living with him. Within a few months, she was pregnant.

women and hiv

During her early pregnancy, Hannifah’s sickness increased. Mike was terrified thinking that she was going to die, so he threw her out of his house.

Seeking help from the church where she used to attend prayer meeting, Hannifah talked to the pastor, who let her sleep at the church while providing her with food for several months.

Together with the church counselor, who was very close to Hannifah, they approached the local council of defense to seek help. The council talked to Mike, who agreed to take Hannifah back. Mike, however, did not have much to offer her. She had many needs because of her illness and he earned very little to support her.

The church counselor connected her with our Child Survival Program at the Full Gospel Church Masaka where she received treatment and transport to the hospital. Whenever she went to the hospital, she stayed at least two weeks.

Hannifah gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Deborah. Her family could only afford one or two meals a day, yet her condition required that she have proper nutrition so we provided her with food, care and support. Without our program, she could not have survived.

By the time Hannifah’s baby was 3 years old, Hannifah was pregnant again. When a child turns three in the Child Survival Program, he or she graduates from the program. However, Hannifah was still in dire need. She had no food and was sick.

Compounding Hannifah’s problems was the fact her husband would often beat her. The two had many conflicts and there was no peace at home. Because they had not paid rent, they were forced to leave their home. When Mike took everything and abandoned Hannifah, she ran to us for help.

Staff members decided to register Hannifah in our program a second time. It is not common to register a mother more than once, because there are many vulnerable children and mothers in the community. However, without the Child Survival Program’s help [3], Hannifah and her unborn child would not have survived.

We requested Highly Vulnerable Children [4] funds to help support Hannifah, and our staff rented a house for her for one year, gave her food on a monthly basis, bought her bedding, and provided for other basic needs.

Seven months into her pregnancy, her condition worsened and she was rushed to the hospital. She could not move and was not expected to live. She delivered her baby prematurely, a girl named Joy who weighed only 1 kilogram (approximately 2 pounds). Hannifah spent a month in the hospital with the baby, under treatment and observation.

We took care of her medical bills, something she could not have managed. The Child Survival Program also provided milk for Joy, because the doctor advised Hannifah not to breastfeed due to her HIV status. She was also given food on a monthly basis, some baby bottles and clothing.

We visited her every week to ensure she was well.

When Hannifah regained energy, she started a small business washing clothes. For two basins of laundry, she earned an average of 2,500 Ugandan shillings (less than $1 US). However, she did not have energy to wash clothes every day.

Eventually the rent the Child Survival Program had paid for her expired, and she had to fend for herself. Using the money from her small business, Hannifah started paying her rent. Unfortunately, she fell sick once again and was admitted to the hospital for an entire month. By the time she came back, her landlords had thrown her out of the house.

Our staff asked Mike to intervene, and he let her stay in one of the rooms of his late grandfather’s house, which is where Hannifah still lives today. The children have since grown and Joy is very healthy.

Hannifah is a happier woman.

“I gave birth to Joy when I was going to die. I was very sick and she was born with a fever. She also used to breathe badly and the doctor said she had pneumonia.

Every week, the staff visited me and gave me food. They cared so much until Joy grew. I didn’t know she would survive. Without the Child Survival Program, I think we would have died.”


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