Telling her story...

Society & Culture | By Rudo Nyangulu, Lawyer | 31 October 2014
PHOTO: © RUDO NYANGULU

My passion as a photographer is to collect and tell stories. In particular I love to tell stories about women, their joys, their struggles, their hopes and their dreams. As I thought about this special POVO Women’s issue and the great opportunity it gives women and artists to tell stories that matter, I felt a burden on my heart to share the story of Mwemwa.

Mwemwa and I met in 2011 when she was 7 months pregnant. She is HIV positive but had not accessed the ‘FREE’ ARV therapy that prevents transmission of HIV from mother to child because she did not have the US$30.00 to pay the clinic to register. Without registration at the clinic the nurses would not give her this vital medicine required to save her child from being born with HIV. The nurses, women like her said no they would not help her save her child and turned her away.

When I heard Mwemwa’s story it moved me deeply. To think that in 2011 with all the knowledge and donor-funding pouring into our country to reduce the transmission rate of HIV, the fate of our children; our next generation at risk of contracting HIV was dependant on the child’s mother’s ability to produce US$30.00 in a country that is scarred by rampant poverty.
US$30.00 was the price to ensure healthy life and a future for Mwemwa’s child.

US$30.00 stood between her child being born HIV negative or HIV positive in a country where access to ARV therapy to prevent mother to child transmission should be free...

Now I do appreciate that government clinics are under resourced and struggle to stay open and provide a service BUT surely a nurse over the common man sees daily the effects of HIV and having the power to aid in ensuring that no child is born HIV positive  how can she turn a mother away?

I asked myself, “Is this OUR Zimbabwe?” A place where children can be born with HIV next to a clinic that has the vital medicine to prevent this locked away and out of reach of the very poor?

I gave Mwemwa the US$30.00 and she went to register at the clinic and started the ARV therapy medication at 7 months pregnant.
December 2011 her baby was born and it turned out to be two babies instead of one, twin girls.

Today the twin girls are thriving, HIV negative and growing well....they are the lucky few... how many more Mwemwa’s are there out there who end up giving birth to HIV positive children because they are economically disadvantaged, living next to a clinic that has the power to save their children this fate, locked away beyond their reach?