Born Free


Spring is a time of hope, a time of rebirth, a time when we see new life all around us.  This spring we want to tell you a story about how life starts for so many children around the world whose mothers are living with HIV.  This is one of the biggest challenges faced by more than one million pregnant women globally each year and our story shows how one women in Eswatini overcame this challenge and is now helping other women to do the same. This is a story of hope.

Elina is living with HIV. In Eswatini, approximately 27.9% of adults are living with HIV, making Eswatini the country with the highest HIV prevalence in the world. The burden is particularly significant for adolescent and young women, who account for a substantial portion of those affected by the virus.


Rather than focusing on the challenges of being HIV positive, Elina says that she is now living positively with HIV. She credits this to having become a member of a Team Hope supported group, set up by our partners in Eswatini. Elina becomes animated as she talks about her support group. “It is like a family. We all have one thing in common. We are all on ART [HIV medication]. And we share the challenges we have with this. A problem shared is a problem halved.”

One big problem Elina had last year was when she learned she was pregnant and did not know how her HIV status would affect her baby. She didn’t know what to do but she immediately got support from the group. Regular training is given to the support group, in collaboration with local clinics, teaching about prevention of mother to child transmission. Elina had never heard about this before. The training teaches HIV positive mothers how to take care of themselves and their babies so that they can prevent their children from contracting the virus before and after birth. It is one of the major advancements in medicine that has saved the lives of millions of children since the first pilot programmes were rolled out in the early 2000’s.


Elina shared with us her pregnancy journey and the different steps she took to make sure her beautiful son Luca was born free from HIV. Firstly, she was advised on how to take her own ART throughout the 9 months but she was also provided with additional medication to take while Luca was in the womb. After Luca was born Elina was given a syrup to give to him that gets rid of any elements of the virus that may have been transmitted during the birth process. Luca took this syrup for five weeks. Also, during the birth, special care was taken to prevent transmission.

Elina is breastfeeding Luca as she cannot afford to feed him with formula. It is therefore absolutely necessary that she does not default on taking her ART – medication that must be taken with nutritious food to be absorbed properly by the body and to ensure her breastmilk is HIV free.  ART is available in the local clinic and is free.  Elina talked about how the support group is always there if she doesn’t have enough food to take her treatment. As well as support, the group Elina is part of  also has a savings and loans facility and provides inputs and trainings on growing nutritious foods that are absolutely necessary for people living with HIV.

Elina is committed to sharing her story with other young women who become pregnant, making sure that they know how to prevent their child from being born HIV positive.  Every child in Eswatini should be born HIV free like Luca and I want to help make that happen. “