To fight HIV, drugs are not enough, therapy is essential and awareness-raising is a weapon to break taboos, prevent and cure the disease.
The only way to weaken the virus is to lower its viral load to the point where it is not transmissible.
Treatment is the only true prevention, but it must be followed rigorously, because a correct diet together with taking the medication protects the patient, allowing him or her to lead a healthy life, minimising the risk of transmission.
This is why at the heart of the Programme is not just the medication, but first and foremost the person.
Olga’s story shows this clearly
Olga, 36, has been a patient of the Community of Sant’Egidio’s DREAM programme since February 2008. The young Mozambican was born in Maputo and attends the DREAM Centre in Matola. During her childhood she had very difficult living conditions, fatherless from the age of 4, she interrupted her primary school studies to help her mother seek better living conditions for herself and her siblings.
She married at the age of 17 and became pregnant the following year. From this union, which lasted just over three years, she had two children, now aged 18 and 16. In 2006, after the birth of her second child, Olga first faced the loss of her mother and, following the discovery of her husband’s extramarital affair, her divorce.
After the first marriage Olga had a new partner and a new pregnancy. As usual, upon learning of the maternity, Olga went to the nearest health unit (health centre Matola I) to open the prenatal module. She was then tested for HIV with a positive result and started antiretroviral treatment. Within the first few months, however, not satisfied with the result, shaken by all the events that had taken place on her path and morally tried, she decided to abandon the treatment.
After the birth of her son, she received an invitation from a friend to visit the DREAM centre in Machava. Intrigued, she chose to go there. When she arrived at the centre, Olga was welcomed and supported, immediately enrolling in the Prevention of Vertical Transmission programme (PMTCT) and receiving good counselling, which, according to her, was essential to stop breastfeeding her son early, thus preventing him from becoming infected.
After the child’s discharge, she remained in treatment and continued follow-up at the paediatric centre, where she had her fourth child, also free of HIV.
The treatment, care and friendly relationship she developed with the DREAM Programme staff overcame the barriers of distance, but economic conditions did not allow her to continue receiving follow-up in a centre so far from home.
Thus, in 2018, she was transferred to the Matola centre. The year just ended, Olga presented herself for a routine consultation where she informed them that she was pregnant.
Her life has now improved, she lives on rent and has her own small fruit and vegetable business from which she manages to derive income to support her 4 children.
Although she sometimes has difficulty in getting to the centre (some days she walks about 3 km), she says that she does so willingly and without problems because, in the DREAM centre, she has found not only a cure for her illness, but above all friendship and security.
Today, Olga has an undetectable viral load, her four children are HIV-free and she hopes that her fifth pregnancy will also be successful.
Despite life’s storms, she dreams of owning her own home and starting her own business to ensure that her children complete their studies and have a promising future.