Our children often have questions about HIV, and one of their questions is: ‘How can I get infected?’
A girl asked if she could be infected by using the same spoon, or sleeping next to an infected person. In this way you cannot get infected. You cannot get infected by touching and you cannot get infected by kissing. You cannot get infected by using the same face cloth as an infected person or the same towel. You cannot get infected by a toilet seat, you do not get infected by saliva, and you do not get infected by poo or by pee. Some of our children are very worried.
One teenager girl had an HIV test at school which was negative; she told me she was very worried because she was so thin. It is a shame that this girl spent time worrying about HIV, there was no need for that. It is also a shame that nobody talks with our children, so they do not get the right information to stop them worrying about HIV. Our children should know a few facts about how they can get infected by HIV.
You can get infected by doing laundry which is contaminated with blood. The way to kill the virus in the dirty laundry is by using bleach. Children can get infected by being raped. Teach your child to tell you this! Children should also not touch blood or touch each others blood without a plastic cover, like a plastic bag. It is important to teach our children things like that.
Never touch blood without using a plastic cover.
A tiny, sneaky and beautiful virus that is called HIV.
Do you know how beautiful the virus is? It is round, evenly shaped, with what looks like thorns, on the surface. It is also very tiny; there can be up to 2 – 3 million copies in 1.3 mm of blood. That is amazing, isn’t it? 2 till 3 million copies in 1.3mm of blood! Incredible! It is hard to believe, but that is what is seen by blood tests. This virus is also very cheeky, it has its own way of travelling, and it can find hidden ways in unexpected manners. This virus finds tiny holes in healthy skin surfaces. It is the nature of the virus to be sneaky and clever. The virus wants to survive, that is why it is clever. It travels around medication, if not taken in time; it travels through very small invisible breaks in the skin of the vagina or on the top of the penis. Make sure this virus will not enter your body! Or enter someone else’s body. It will make you sick. A lot of time has to be spent to attend the clinic and in the end you will die anyway. So please abstain from casual sex or please use a condom!! This virus uses its thorns to break down your immune system cells. This tiny, sneaky and beautiful virus is a killing virus. This virus is impressive in the way it survives.
Who are you?
Take a piece of paper and a pencil or go outside and find a smooth piece of sand and something to draw with. You start with your head, your eyes, and the shape of your eyes. Aren’t they beautiful? Your nose, tiny or a little bit bigger, your skin. There might be a pimple or a wrinkle. Does it matter? The only thing people notice when they look at you is if you are a kind smiling person, can they trust you? Then you draw your body, some bodies are a bit small, some bodies are a bit bigger, draw your legs and your feet. Then when you are finished, have a look at your drawing. That is you! Aren’t you pretty??
It is great, you are pregnant! Congratulations!
Did you want to get pregnant? Is there somebody to support you? Do you have a safe place to stay? Do you have an income to provide for your baby?
The first thing you need to take care of is your health. You need to go to the maternity clinic and make a booking. What do you need to make a booking? First you need your identification paper, your ID book. It might be that you do not have it; you never got a birth certificate, so you do not have an ID book. There is a solution: you go to the police station and make an affidavit. That is fine for the clinic. The second item you need is a proof of address. That is sometimes not so easy in an informal settlement like Barcelona. You go to our chairperson, Tonny Mongami Mbiki and he will write a proof of address for you.
Please, please do all of this, it is for your health, it is for your baby’s health, it is also needed for your baby’s ID papers.
Then you go to the clinic, very early in the morning! It is also very imported that you go very early in your pregnancy. If you go after 20 weeks of pregnancy an ultra sound cannot be done any more. So please go in the first 3 months of your pregnancy. Early detection of abnormalities makes it easier to treat you. The nurse will ask for a sample of urine that is needed to test for sugar (diabetics). A blood sample is taken to test on blood grouping, sexually transmitted diseases and haemoglobin. Your blood pressure is taken. The next thing the nurse will ask if she can send your blood for an HIV test. This HIV test is vital. Before the HIV test is done the pregnant mother can get counselling and the results will come the same day. If you are HIV positive you get special attention, like medications, starting within 28 weeks of pregnancy and extra tests of haemoglobin.
A lot of women refuse the test; around 4% of the pregnant mothers refuse the test. Most pregnant mothers claim they already know their status. What risk dos the mother take by refusing an HIV test? 33% of the untreated HIV pregnancies will have an infected baby. A third of the 33% get infected during pregnancy, a third gets infected during delivery and a third gets infected during breastfeeding. Do you want to take the risk of having an HIV positive child while this can in most cases easily be prevented?
This is an imported question you have to think seriously about.
There is free formula for a child from an HIV positive mother for half a year. I think the South African government might be the only government in the world to provide free formula for these children. So make use of it!
Formula Milk costs R2500 for half a year.
We often get women at our office who ask for formula for their babies. When we ask them why they do not breastfeed their babies they give us different answers. Of course some of these mothers are right and there might be a reason not to breastfeed. From our side, we cannot assist these mothers. To assist a mother with formula for the first half of a year of a baby’s life, it would cost our organization an estimated R2500. We do not have that money. The other thing is that breastfeeding is healthier than formula, formula is a substitute, and not meant to be given if breastfeeding is available. People from universities all over the world studied the different outcomes between formula and breastfeeding. They all found the same results. Breastfeeding prevents diarrhoea, breastfeeding prevents dehydration, it prevents the baby from getting flu and other virus infections and it has all the right nutriments. Breastfeeding might look strange when you start giving it, it might be watery, and there might be blood in it. It is still very healthy and the best start you can give your child in life.