This essay originally appeared on ONE as part of World AIDS Day awareness. This mother’s life and story are just one of many when illustrating the end of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT).
My name is Joyce Kamwana and I was 25 years old when I first found out I was HIV-positive. Today, I am 48 years old and have lived to see my daughters grow up and have also become a grandmother, thanks to the free treatment I have received through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. A few years before my husband, my baby daughter, and I were diagnosed in 1988, my husband had developed shingles and a boil, and my daughter often had various skin wounds, but we were not sure why. Three years after we tested positive for HIV, in 1991, my husband passed away and I was left to care for both my daughters single-handedly, having to act as a father and mother in one.
Sometimes infants test positive falsely while breastfeeding from an HIV-positive mother, so after I started treatment, I stopped breastfeeding my daughter Tracy and she was pronounced HIV-negative. No one thought I would live much longer than my husband. In those days there was no treatment available but I managed to survive for 15 years by adhering to a healthy diet and living positively. Fortunately, the Global Fund came to Malawi in 2004 and I was put on treatment.
After I was diagnosed with HIV, people were surprised that I talked publicly about my health issues. I decided I wanted to make a difference, so I became an activist to educate others about this disease and on how to live healthier lives. I have since worked on panel discussions on TV and radio, supervised HIV testing campaigns, and served as National Supervisor to the districts in Malawi during World AIDS Day. I wanted to contribute to society and help all those affected by this disease, so I also began training people living with HIV on how to find support groups and live positively.
I have also worked for the United Nations as a United Nations Volunteer on the Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV/ AIDS program, and in June 2006, I co-founded the Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi.
I am thankful for all the opportunities I have had in the years of life and as a mother, and am particularly thankful for the Global Fund and the antiretroviral therapy it provided me. With its help, we can end mother-to-child transmission of HIV and transform the lives of many Malawians and the future of our country. I am now expecting another grandchild from my second daughter who was once HIV-positive. My daughter just took an HIV test for her pregnancy and it came out negative. My grandchild will be HIV-negative thus breaking the vicious cycle of HIV transmission.
For more infomation on World AIDS Day, go to ONE.org.