“Life is full of surprises. Don’t write anything off”
When Amanda Mammadova was told she was HIV positive eight years ago, she assumed she would never be able to have children again.
“The minute I heard those test results I thought ‘I’m going to die’ and that ‘nobody will ever want me again’. I just thought this was the start of a very miserable existence.”
Yet, with treatment, Amanda ending up having two children following her diagnosis. Both are free of infection.
HIV medication works by reducing the level of the virus in the blood to undetectable levels. This means once someone is diagnosed and on antiretroviral drugs, the levels of HIV can be reduced so that the virus cannot be passed on during sex.
When Amanda was told that the amount of virus in the blood (her “viral load”) was undetectable, she decided to get pregnant. She was able to do so naturally, and gave birth to Saabira in February 2013.
Amanda said that although she knew the risk of passing on the virus to her baby was less than 1%, she was terrified.
Saabira ended up testing negative for the virus. So did Amanda’s next child, Logan.
Amanda recalls how, at the first birth, the midwife wore double gloves and a face mask. At the second, there was no mask and just the standard one pair of gloves. She said that the situation felt very different.
“It was like even in that short period of time, things had moved on a bit.“
Amanda’s older daughter, Lauren, was told about her mother’s HIV status when she was 12. During a sexual education class, one of her teachers told the students that when a woman has HIV she can’t have children. Lauren spoke out.
“People told me to keep quiet about my status but I thought how dare you tell me to keep quiet like I’m ashamed about it,” said Amanda.” It’s not a dirty little secret.”
“What I would say to anyone newly diagnosed, is life is full of surprises. Don’t write anything off. HIV means you can live the same as everyone else.”
Amanda has appeared in a short film about those living with HIV called “A Life Beyond.”
The UK has made significant progress in antiretroviral treatment coverage in recent decades, with 96% of those diagnosed now accessing treatment and 94% virally suppressed. The cost of HIV treatment is dropping and treatment can make people living with the virus over 96% less infectious.
However, those with HIV/AIDS still face stigma, discrimination, and misinformation. The Elton John AIDS Foundation works to support them and ensure that everyone has access to the information and means they need to to stop discrimination, halt HIV infections and end AIDS deaths.
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Through UK Aid Match, the UK government will double public donations up to £2 million to be spent across projects in Maputo and Nairobi.