At first, Jennifer refused. But after considering the potential consequences for her child, she decided it was the best move.
"[Clinic staff] informed me that if my results were positive, I could successfully prevent my child from getting the HIV virus," she recalls.
When the test results came back, her worst fears were confirmed. Despite the reassurance she had received at the clinic, she still feared her child would be HIV-positive and die of AIDS.
Through her despair, however, the soon-to-be mother of a third child learned she had options. A World Vision nurse in her community explained that Jennifer could either exclusively breast-feed Hadija for six months — which studies have shown greatly reduces the likelihood of mother-to-child transmission, as opposed to babies who also are fed solids during this time period — or opt for bottle feeding, a more expensive but effective alternative.*
With World Vision's support, Jennifer chose the latter. "I chose replacement [bottle] feeding because it is difficult to purely breast-feed the child for six months," she says.
World Vision provided her with milk on the day Hadija was born, which she used until her daughter was 6 months old. When Hadija was 3 months old, World Vision also provided the family with two goats — ensuring a continual, safe alternative source of nourishment for the child.
When Hadija reached 18 months of age, it came time for her to be tested for HIV.
Jennifer was understandably apprehensive, but also hopeful. "During the testing, I saw one child who was very emaciated, and mine was healthy," she says, adding that Hadija's good physical condition had encouraged her to proceed with the test.
But the results weren't immediately available — they had to be sent to Nairobi for screening. Though the waiting period took its toll on Jennifer, she held on to hope.
"World Vision employees used to visit me every time to encourage me and to check on how we were doing. If they had not visited us, it would have been a big challenge for me," she says.
Finally, the results came in on a piece of paper. "I saw Hadija's name, [and] she was negative," recalls Jennifer. "I had to read again several times to confirm, and indeed she was. I was so overjoyed and thanked God for having saved Hadija from the HIV virus."
*World Vision believes breast-feeding is best for babies and their mothers, and generally discourages substitute feeding. A rare exception is when the mother is HIV-positive. As in Jennifer's case, if HIV diagnosis is confirmed, all alternatives are explained to the mother. If she chooses breast milk substitutes, our staff make sure she has the means — including access to clean water — to continue preparing the formula and sterilizing the bottles as long as the baby needs it. Staff also follow up to ensure the baby is thriving.
>> Praise the Lord that Jennifer was able to avoid transmitting HIV to Hadija, her newborn child, through World Vision's prevention program in her village. Pray for God's blessing upon the millions of children worldwide whose lives are affected by HIV and AIDS, the greatest humanitarian disaster of our time.
>> Make your mark for children. On April 2, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Global AIDS Bill. Ask the Senate to do the same and ensure that 10 percent of funding in the new legislation is set aside specifically for the care of orphans and vulnerable children.
>> Help turn the tide against AIDS. Your gift will help provide care and support to orphans and children left vulnerable by the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.
>> Sponsor a HopeChild in an AIDS-affected community.
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