feature

born HIV-free:
an expectant mother's story

Women in Africa are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, and mothers are therefore at an increased risk of transmitting the disease to their children. Consistent with our commitment to invest in the communities where we live and work, Chevron has made the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV a goal in Nigeria and Angola where some of our largest operations are centered and where the grip of AIDS is strongest.

In 2016, Chevron partnered with to launch a $1.5 million, two-year initiative, PROMOT II, in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, aimed at increasing awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention, testing and treatment among expectant mothers. In Bayelsa State, strides have been made to improve HIV/AIDS awareness, but many are still reluctant to be tested including pregnant women.

PROMOT II exists to close the gap. It’s critical that more expectant mothers receive testing and treatment, because proper intervention can prevent transmission from an HIV-positive mother to her unborn child.

Here is one such PROMOT II success story from Bayelsa State:

Firstlady Stephen was 18, pregnant and had recently dropped out of high school when she met Hanna Ogaku, a PROMOT II community health officer and mentor. Hanna made a trip with a group of other mentors to Firstlady’s community to provide information about HIV testing and prevention.

Firstlady hadn’t received any prenatal care or been tested for HIV since learning she was pregnant. After speaking with Hanna, Firstlady agreed to the first step of taking an HIV test through PROMOT II. She tested positive.

The news was devastating and made her afraid for her baby.

“I nearly had a heart attack when they told me that the test showed I was HIV-positive,” Firstlady recalls.

But Hanna was there for her. She arranged for a second test to confirm Firstlady’s diagnosis, help her accept it and make her aware of treatment options – and the fact that her baby could still be born healthy.

With the assistance of a referral team and a local health center connected to PROMOT II, Hanna helped connect Firstlady with prenatal care and services to prevent mother-to-child-transmission. Firstlady was also enrolled in nutritional and treatment counseling to help her stay healthy and current with all her medications, which would, hopefully, protect her baby.

A few months later, Firstlady delivered a baby boy named Igodo Daniel.

When it was time for Igodo to receive his early-infant diagnosis HIV test, Firstlady was scared. This time, however, the news was what she hoped: Her baby’s test was negative.

Firstlady’s experience with PROMOT II didn’t end with this good news. One of the toughest barriers to women maintaining their health and access to quality care is a lack of money.

To stay healthy and support her young son Igodo, Firstlady needed an income of her own. Through PROMOT II, she joined a local WORTH group – an economic empowerment program run by Pact that teaches women financial literacy, basic business principles and entrepreneurship, and connects them with microlending opportunities.

Firstlady began attending WORTH group meetings and saving money, and now she’s making plans to start a small business.

Promoting effective education, testing and treatment requires patience, empathy and trust. The programs and partnerships we support – like PROMOT II – rely on local mentors, health officers, coaches and ambassadors to build relationships, communicate safety and raise awareness of HIV testing and treatment options.

While test results can carry unwelcome news for expectant mothers, a diagnosis is also an opportunity to be empowered with information and treatment options that can benefit a mother and her baby. A healthy delivery and a healthy baby are possible with early testing and preventive care – and on that foundation, greater societal progress can be made.

Published: May 2018