Desperate breastfeeding mother infected her baby with HIV

By Anita Dangazele

An Eastern Cape mother who could not stand letting her baby go hungry for just one more day was left with no choice but to breastfeed her daughter — even though her viral load was at an all-time high.

After losing her job in Cape Town during the Covid-19 pandemic, an unemployed mother of three decided to move back to her village in Willowvale, Eastern Cape with her two eldest children. She did not know she was already pregnant with her third child.

The mother, who requested her identity be withheld, explained that after falling ill, she visited her local clinic. It was there she discovered that she was not only pregnant but also HIV positive.

“When I found out about my status, I received counselling and started on treatment immediately but I was not consistent with my treatment because sometimes we wouldn’t have food to eat. 

“So when I gave birth my viral load was still very high. The nurses advised me not to breastfeed as I would risk infecting my baby,” the mother told Scrolla.Africa.

The young mother said she is dependent on her children’s support grant and has not worked since she returned to the Eastern Cape in 2021. She said she does not receive support from any of her children’s fathers.

She said sometimes the formula would run out mid-month and she’d have no means to buy more — and then she would take the heart-wrenching decision to breastfeed her baby.

She said on one occasion she had run out of formula and the other children had not eaten for three days.

“The baby wouldn’t stop crying. I felt I had no choice but to breastfeed her,” she said.

“It breaks my heart knowing that my daughter is now HIV positive because of me, but I just couldn’t watch her cry her lungs out from hunger any longer.”

She said she taught her other children to pray when hungry, and the holy spirit would fill their bellies.

Just recently the SA Human Rights Commission (the SAHRC) recommended that the Eastern Cape government declare child malnutrition a state of disaster in the province.

SAHRC Eastern Cape coordinator Dr Eileen Carter said the commission had given the provincial government three months to take its recommendation into consideration.

“It would be a sad day for the children in this province if the provincial government does not take our recommendations seriously and apply them,” said Carter.

A report by the SAHRC revealed that 116 children died of severe acute malnutrition between April 2021 and March 2022 in the province.

This year alone, two mothers have taken their lives including those of their children in two separate incidents suspected to be driven by poverty.

The Eastern Cape Department of Social Development had not responded to questions sent by Scrolla.Africa at the time of publication.

Pictured above: A mother walking with her child.

Image source: Facebook/Gift of the Givers


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