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Born HIV free in Zimbabwe

Martha was convinced that she was going to die. She had just been diagnosed as living with HIV and considered it a death sentence. When she saw her children she would burst into tears.

Some of her neighbours were angry with her. They accused her of introducing HIV into the area and were cruel to her.

Martha and Micheal with their son Tapiwa. Although Martha is living with HIV, Tapiwa was born HIV free

Photos: Martha and Micheal with their son Tapiwa in Zimbabwe. Although Martha is living with HIV, Tapiwa was born HIV free. Photos by Eithne Brennan.

Others were kind, and one neighbour encouraged her to visit the Mashambanzou Care Trust. Here, Martha learnt that she could live a perfectly healthy life despite her HIV status.

Martha soon discovered that she was pregnant and was worried that her child would be born with HIV. However, staff at the centre gave her treatment to prevent the virus being transmitted from mother to child.

Martha’s husband, Michael, was angry when she told him they were expecting.  He felt guilty that the baby could be born with HIV. He thought they should avoid having children altogether because of their HIV status. Martha told him about the treatment to prevention transmission of HIV from the mother to the child, but Michael was still worried.

Tapiwa was born in December 2009 and tests showed that he ws HIV free.

When his son was born, Michael’s attitude changed. Although they had little money to spare, they bought a chicken and a cake to celebrate Tapiwa’s HIV negative result. 

Now approaching his second birthday, Tapiwa is healthy and happy. He lives with his parents, his brother and sister and two of his cousins, Chipo and Chinga, who lost their parents to AIDS related illnesses. 

Tapiwa is a daddies boy –his hands are often covered in paint from ‘helping’ his dad in his carpentry workshop. Despite his shy character Tapiwa’s parents see that he is a very intelligent and industrious little boy.  They say that his favourite thing to do is to spend the day alongside his dad, working with him. 

An estimated 370,000 children were born with HIV in 2009. In developed countries like Ireland, mother to child transmission of HIV has almost been eliminated. It is possible and cost effective to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV in low and middle income countries with the right level of funding and the political will.



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