Counselling & Support for HIV
We met Rachel at the Labong Health Center when she came to pick up a mama kit. Newly enrolled in GWED-G’s maternal and newborn health program for HIV+ mothers, today Rachel received a basin containing essential materials for her upcoming labor and delivery, including soap, latex gloves, an abdominal drape, a scalpel, and a warm baby blanket. She sat for her interview with her youngest child sleeping peacefully in a sling on her back.
Rachel has been married to her husband since she was 19 years old and has known her HIV status since 2012. She is her husband’s seventh wife, the previous six having left him. He infected them all with HIV. Rachel has four children and is currently pregnant with her fifth; her first child was delivered at home and was born HIV+, but her last three were born negative.
Rachel’s husband is an extremely violent man, often beating her in front of her children and even when she is pregnant. He has repeatedly beaten her to the point of unconsciousness. He abuses her constantly – physically, verbally, and financially. He sells everything that she grows and spends the money on alcohol. He repeatedly threatens to kill her and her children. Rachel has sought police involvement to protect her, but intervention would cost more than she can afford, as she would have to pay police fees such as transportation costs. She also feels that seeking help puts her in direct danger from her husband.
As a young child, Rachel developed a condition in her left leg that structurally disfigured her foot and left her with a permanent disability. She is an orphan; her mother died while she was still breastfeeding, and her father was killed by the LRA. She has two sisters, one of whom is also HIV+ and one of whom has the same leg disability. She doesn’t receive any support from her extended family and providing for her children is a constant struggle. Her husband does not buy necessities for the household, so her children walk around naked and hungry. They do not go to school.
Rachel learned about GWED-G through a health worker when she came to the center to immunize one of her children. She is willing to accept any kind of support that GWED-G can offer her, as without outside help, she is cynical about her and her children’s futures. Faced with a vindictive husband and the prospect of little action on the part of the authorities, getting out of her abusive relationship will undoubtedly prove to be complicated and extraordinarily difficult. Hopefully Rachel’s situation will improve as she receives support and counseling from GWED-G and the health center staff.