I was 32 when my partner and I found out at the same time we were HIV positive. It was a real test of our relationship as we didn’t know who had given it to whom but with fantastic support we managed to move on from blame and paranoia.
I felt so sick that I didn’t think I would live for very long, let alone ever have children. But luckily I had a specialist who told me that not only would I be able to live a long life, if I wanted to have children, I should have them. Our consultants were really optimistic that we could have children who were not HIV positive; our HIV health was very good, we were on antiretroviral medication and our viral loads were undetectable. We were told we had everything going for us and as the doctors knew we would both continue to take the drugs they had prescribed, they said the chance of us having an HIV positive baby was less than 1 per cent.
Our first daughter was born two years ago and our second daughter is now three months old. Neither have HIV.
I would advise anyone who is pregnant, or thinking of getting pregnant, to be screened for the virus. Women must realise they are responsible for their sexual health, even when in a committed relationship or marriage. The riskiest time for the baby to contract the virus is during labour when the mother’s membranes have ruptured. But if a woman goes into labour with her viral load suppressed then it’s unlikely she will pass it onto her baby. She also shouldn’t breastfeed and her newborn needs to take AZT syrup for the first four weeks of life. The medication doesn’t seem to have any adverse effects on the babies.
The oldest children born to HIV positive women since numbers have been recorded, but who didn’t catch the virus, are now in their 20s.
Meeting other HIV positive women, and being supported by a great organisation called Positive Women Inc, has really helped me.
My family think our children are a miracle. Right at the beginning, when everything seemed so horrible I would never have imagined I could go onto to have two healthy kids. It still amazes me!