By Clementina Njang Yong
The CBC Health Board’s Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV project has continued to initiate HIV positive pregnant women into anti-retroviral therapy. More and more women tested HIV positive during pregnancy receive the drug that prevents the virus from being transmitted to their babies. This uptake of ARVs by pregnant women has continued to yield positive results. Success stories showcasing its efficacy are numerous in single, double and multiple births. The consequent result has been happiness and a bright future for parents and babies born of HIV positive parents.
Their names are Jerry, Praises and Jenny, HIV Exposed Infants (triplets) born of an HIV positive mother in the Northwest region of Cameroon. Their case study is one of many successful interventions by the PMTCT project of the CBCHB that has led to babies born HIV free. Follow up of these babies has been initiated to ensure that they don’t get infected during the breastfeeding period. Many children have been followed up with good records of these children maintaining a negative status during rapid tests at 18 months, as is the case with a second family of triplets where Praises, Rejoice and Favor are living happily and healthily with a negative HIV status after their rapid tests were done.
Eliza is 24 years old and mother of 7 children after 5 births. She was diagnosed HIV positive in 2006 and immediately initiated to treatment. This diagnosis however almost destabilized her ‘if I didn’t die at that time it is thanks to God. I had heard that HIV kills and so I thought that was the end of my life’. Thanks to continued counselling, she informed her husband about her status and started taking Bactrim treatment. Her adherence to treatment and positive mind-set enabled Eliza to bear all her 7 HIV negative children within ten years since she knew of her positive status.
Though Eliza lives in one of the remotest areas of the NW region, she knows the importance of early Ante Natal Care during pregnancy thanks to the sensitization messages of the HIV-Free project in her community. In her last birth in which she bore triplets, this young mother started ANC at three months. During this pregnancy she was switched to Option B+, a regimen she appreciates for its convenience.. This led to proper follow up to ensure the health of the babies who were finally born on 5th of January 2016 at 7 months one week old.
Eliza prides in sharing her childbirth ordeal. Her labor pains started at home, about 12 kilometers from the health center. Carried on a bike, she did not arrive the hospital before putting to birth. Her triplets were delivered on the way thanks to the assistance of the bike rider and a passerby. She adds that it is thanks to knowledge gained at ANC she was able to take care of the babies before arriving the hospital where the babies were separated.
DBS samples were collected on February 24th, with the PCR results turning out negative. At 3 months, the children are healthy and on exclusive breastfeeding, as advised by staff of the Nutrition improvement program who constantly pay visits to the family to ensure the health of the babies. As the social department of LAP is working towards giving more assistance to the babies, they have also lobbied with a positive response from the council to assist the family.
Eliza’s story shows the importance of knowing our HIV status, accepting readily available treatment, adhering to treatment and above all living with a positive mindset. Just like Mabel, she is one of the examples of young women of child-bearing ages living with HIV who have opened up with testimonies that can enable others emulate for a healthy society.
It is almost two years today since 30 years Ngong Mabel Bi and 40 years old Yuh Maurice Ngong, had their set of triplets – Praises, Favor and Rejoice. It has been three years of praises and thanksgiving to God for His favor on their family.This joy has not been enjoyed exclusively by the family. It has also been a success story for the project which in 2013 worked with the family to document the success; a joy that was sealed on April 15th, 2015 when the rapid tests of the triplets all turned out negative.
This was the first HIV-Free triplets documented by the project, and the couple happily made appearances on National radio and TV in Cameroon. Their messages of the efficacy of PMTCT through testimonies have educated many in their community and in the country. A visit to the family in April 2016 to check on the growth of the children has shown healthy growth as their parents continue to respect medical advice.
Working with this couple has been easy with the PMTCT project of the CBCHB, ‘the success of these babies today is thanks to the cooperation of the parents; they are very punctual with appointments’. Contact with Mabel started in March 2012 when she was referred to Mbingo Baptist hospital after diagnosed HIV positive. Mabel has constantly taken her treatment thanks to the assistance she receives from her husband who visits the hospital to collect her medication. ‘If other men could copy the example of Mr Yuh, work would be easy for us and more children will be born HIV-Free’; says Mr Yonghabi Promise, PMTCT Coordinator. The children have all grown to be healthy, a great joy to their parents and the.CBCHB. They have genuinely appreciated the assistance rendered to them and have vowed to continue to make people in their community know that being HIV positive is not the end of life.