Zambia progresses in AIDS fight, but bishop warns against complacency
Nurse and midwife Angela Maseka is no stranger to the realities of HIV.
A resident of Livingstone, a border community and tourist destination known for its proximity to the wondrous Victoria Falls and to neighboring Zimbabwe, Maseka said being a regional hub and “mobile city” are factors helping drive HIV infection rates.
Maseka’s work places her at the center of Livingstone’s fight against AIDS.
Working in a clinic that provides prenatal care and treats pregnant women who are HIV-positive, Maseka and her colleagues see about 10 to 15 pregnant women a day. About three-quarters of them are HIV-positive.
One of them, Melody Pumulo, 32, eight months pregnant with her fourth child, lives in one of Livingstone’s shanty towns. Pumulo is not sure how she contracted the virus that causes AIDS, but ruefully notes that her husband has steadfastly refused to be tested.
Pumulo accepted the news of her HIV status with certain fatalism: “It has come,” she recalled thinking when she got the news.
Recent advances in medical treatment have given Pumulo some hope that her child — a girl, she hopes — will not be born with HIV. Advanced pregnant mother-to-child treatments are given through antiretroviral drugs. However, the child’s eventual HIV status will not be known until after birth.
“She’s prepared for all eventualities, prepared for any treatment,” Maseka said of Pumulo.
“The child did not invite the HIV,” Pumulo said. “I just want her to be free of HIV, go to school, work.”
Pumulo’s experience offers something of a glimpse into the realities of HIV and AIDS in a southern African country struggling, and occasionally winning, the battle against a stubborn and persistent menace.
Her visit to the Livingstone clinic last week also comes at a time when governmental bodies, health providers, activists and nongovernmental organizations — including Roman Catholic Church representatives and those affiliated with Catholic institutions — meet July 22-27 in Washington for the XIX International AIDS Conference. [More]