Through the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), I recently spoke with Fortunata Kasege and heard her story. Fortunata came to the US from Tanzania 15 years ago. She arrived here to attend school, only to discover that she was pregnant and HIV+. It’s hard to imagine the fear, sadness and intense range of emotions Fortunata must have experienced. But she also got help. Here’s more of her story:
“My story is just one of those lucky stories, one of those very good ending stories. I always feel like we can have many more of my story around the world. It takes all our efforts together.
Fifteen years ago, I had no idea that I was carrying a baby and also that I was HIV+. When I went for my first prenatal, that’s when I was told that I was positive. It was scary to think that I could not only lose my life, but the life of my unborn kid was also in jeopardy due to this disease. So luckily, because of the treatment that was made available at that time, my life was saved and the life of my baby was saved. That’s why I’m forever grateful for this opportunity for me to get the treatment here. She’s healthy, she was born without the disease so the medicine worked. She’s going to be 15 next week. This is the least that I can do—to tell the world that it’s possible to save lives.”
And that’s where Fortunata’s work comes in. She’s an ambassador for EGPAF–helping to spread the word about the good work the foundation is doing. EGPAF has programs in 13 African countries, the US and India. Their focus is three-pronged:
- Advancing research on prevention, care and treatment of pediatric AIDS
- Prevention of transmission from mother to child
- Raising awareness and advancing public policy to eradicate pediatric HIV/AIDS.
Fortunata’s daughter is healthy thanks to early intervention and diagnosis. Being here in the US was a huge advantage. What Fortunata had seen in her own country was that HIV/AIDS = death. The medical team she worked with throughout her high-risk pregnancy helped her not only with the medicine, but with her fears and emotions. And now, she’s giving back as part of the EGPAF A Mother’s Fight campaign. Check out the website to read some really meaningful, loving stories about motherhood from kids affected by the AIDS epidemic and from people around the world.
As I write this, I’m sitting in my pajamas. There’s a vase with red, red roses on the table. My oldest daughter is still sleeping, but my youngest is crashing around the kitchen making pancakes and sausage for my Mother’s Day breakfast. And they are healthy and I have to stop to reflect on what that means. Fortunata made a comment about Mother’s Day that stuck with me. She said, “A chance for life–Mother’s Day. Life for mother and child. I feel like I am the one who got the gift. I am the one who got this incredible gift to be a mom.”
Motherhood is profound. EGPAF is doing amazing work to insure that many, many more women get to experience all the depth and joy of being a mother. Please support them.
For more of Fortunata’s story, check out the Mom Bloggers for Social Good site.