In the state of Maryland, where I live, HIV testing at the beginning of every pregnancy is routine. Although not at risk for the disease, I consented to the administration of the tests at my first prenatal visit for each of my pregnancies.
Forget the stigma, the faint worry, the shame.
I, like every mother out there, would go to any length to protect my unborn baby. No matter how slight the possibility, how low the chance, I am not taking any chances at all when it comes to the health of my child.
Because the fact is, when an HIV-positive mother receives antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy, labor, and delivery; has her baby by Caesarian section; and avoids breastfeeding, the chance of passing the infection to her baby falls to less than 2% (fewer than 2 in 100). [source: AIDS.gov]
However, an HIV-positive mother who is not being treated for her HIV during pregnancy, labor, or delivery has a 25% chance (1 in 4) of passing the virus to her baby.
Every mother has struggles, a complex life and crosses to bear. Mothers and women who hope to become mothers who are HIV positive face a unique set of obstacles. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Together Network has a powerful message for women:
Living with HIV does not mean giving up on your hopes and dreams of becoming a mother, or living in health and happiness to raise your children.
If you are HIV positive or have a loved one with the disease, I urge you to utilize the Together network. Women and mothers from all walks of life are there to provide you with resources and their stories about living with and mothering their children while HIV positive. These women are protecting their children and living in health and with strength.
More than a million people are living with HIV in the U.S., and the images and stories in this campaign are reminders that HIV does not discriminate across race, gender, or age.
Every voice and every story is important. Individuals featured in Let’s Stop HIV Together have shared their stories to raise awareness, fight stigma about HIV, encourage HIV prevention and testing, and champion the power of relationships in the personal and public fight to stop HIV.
Here is the story of Michelle who did not receive her diagnosis until after the birth of her daughter Raven, and the beauty and strength she shows in raising her daughter is incredibly inspiring.
If Michelle was brave enough to share her personal story, I think we can be brave enough to do our small part in spreading the word and fighting HIV in the open. My prayer is that EVERYONE gets tested and treated, and then is loved and cherished during treatment, so that we can truly end this disease.
Learn more about how we can stop HIV together, and share with those you love.
This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own.