“I’m HIV positive and pregnant but I know I will give birth to an HIV free baby. Why should I infect my child with HIV when there is medication to protect the baby?”
Dressed in a white garment, one would mistake Madzimai Evelyn for that ultra-conservative congregant who does not believe in medication, but she has a different story to tell.
She bluntly speaks with confidence and determination, despite coming from an ultra-conservative apostolic church, which does not allow congregants to seek medical attention, Madzimai Evelyn
defied the odds.
Having known of her HIV status in 2004, Madzimai Evelyn says she has been determined since then to live a normal life with the virus.
Chronicling her journey since she got to know her status, losing her first husband to full blown AIDS, the stigma associated with HIV back then, Madzimai still vividly remembers how other congregants at her then Johane Marange church would not allow her to touch their kids.
“My first husband died in 2004 and back then we had little knowledge about what HIV or AIDS was. It was only associated with prostitutes and it’s something that we couldn’t openly talk about in communities or even at church.
“When he died (husband), he never got tested but he was very sick and got to an extent of being nursed like a baby, wearing napkins because of acute diarrhoea. He suffered from all sort of diseases you can think of before he died,” says Madzimai.She tells of how she had lost her baby soon after birth before her husband fell sick: “I lost my baby because of lack of knowledge; I was pregnant and never got tested let alone go to the clinic for antenatal care.
“I would use holy water and pebbles until I gave birth kuMatumba, unfortunately my baby died after a week and I just thought it was some evil spirit that had taken my baby.
“But when my husband got sick and died, this is when I thought this could be HIV but the only way I could know was by getting tested.”Madzimai said she went to her rural home in Masvingo after the death of her husband and when her mother saw her, she immediately recommended that she seeks medical attention.
“When my mother saw me, she cried and thought I would die too. I went to Murambinda Mission Hospital where I got an HIV test which tested positive.
“I was not shocked by my status because my husband died in my hands as we shuttled from one madzibaba to the other for healing, and after being told about HIV, I knew he had died from full blown AIDS,” chronicles Madzimai.From the moment she got to know about her status, Madzimai Evelyn said she was also determined to let the church know about her status, regardless of what they would say about her seeking medical attention.
“I was then initiated on anti-retroviral treatment in 2006 and then my CD4 count was now very low, it should have been around 50 and I was very sick.
“I started responding to treatment very well and was no longer bed ridden. Now I had to let my church know about my status, for a moment, I didn’t care what anyone would say because I now really understood about HIV and living a positive life.
“It was however not easy, church members would say a lot behind my back with some labelling me a prostitute. That didn’t deter me, I continued with my treatment until I was well again,” adds Madzimai.She says since her initiation on treatment, her medication became her first muteuro with holy water and pebbles being second and third on her priorities.
Madzimai then met her second husband, a primary school teacher at Sutton Mine. She said every time she met a potential partner, she would hastily open up about her HIV status.
“I then met my husband, who is also HIV positive and we got married and moved with him to Sutton. I left my then church, Johane Marange when I got married and moved and I’m now a Johane Masowe eChishanhu member.
“I have never stopped preaching about HIV and even around this area people know me. I already had two children from my previous marriage and we planned to have our own child with my husband.
“We consulted nurses about it and asked how we could try on a baby and have the baby protected from HIV. We have been using condoms ever since we got together as we were both educated about avoiding re-infection and we religiously followed that,” she says.
“We were then educated on what to do during sex as we try on a baby. We were to have unprotected sex but made sure it wasn’t dry sex to avoid any cracks that could see us being prone to re-infection.
“Pamuviri pachingobva kubata, taibva tadzokera pacondom,” she quips.She says she religiously adhered to the nurses’ instruction as soon as she got pregnant until she gave birth.
“I was given the first dose of nevirapine on the onset of labour to ensure that my baby is protected. I delivered at Sutton clinic and my baby was HIV negative. She was to be tested later on and still tested negative, that really brought both of us joy.”Madzimai Evelyn who has dared HIV against all odds is now four months pregnant with their second child says ngoma ndiyo ndiyo.
“Why should I have an HIV positive baby when there is everything to protect that baby? That would be such a social injustice,” she argues.Source - H-Metro.co.zw