With the right information and the right support, Austin and Effness, two HIV-positive parents, now have a beautiful baby free from HIV – something they thought would never be possible.
Anastasia Simbeye, the daughter of HIV-positive parents, does not carry the virus.
Anastasia toddles about in a Manchester United top several sizes too large for her. As the daughter of HIV-positive parents, she is the child they dreamed of. Six months ago it was confirmed that she doesn’t carry the virus.
'We always wanted a child'
Austin and Effness found out early on in their marriage that they were both HIV positive.
‘They were discouraging people who are HIV positive from having children.
'I felt bad because I wanted to be able to have a child with my wife. She wanted a child and I wanted a child,’ says Austin Simbeye.
A training session led by Christian Aid partner Foundation for Community Support Services (FOCUS) gave Austin renewed hope.
‘Anastasia was born without HIV – she is a gift from God.'
He learned about a programme that prevents transmission of the HIV virus from the mother to the child.
‘[They told us] we just had to follow the rules they gave us and our baby would be free of HIV.
'That day we both cried when we found out our lives could be normal, that we could be like everyone else,’ recalls Effness.
‘Anastasia was born without HIV and she is healthy – she is a gift from God,’ her mother adds.
‘When she grows up I want her to know exactly how to avoid HIV and I know I now have enough knowledge to do that.’
The cost of healthcare
In Malawi, basic healthcare is free of charge. But for a poor family like the Simbeyes, the cost of travelling to the health centre and the time away from work is still a huge financial burden.
During Effness’ pregnancy it was even more important that she attend every ante-natal appointment. The hospital where she gave birth is three hours away by foot.
‘It is expensive having to give up time and travel to the hospital. When my wife went to have the baby, I hired an ox cart to carry her,’ Austin explains.
A bright future
With help from FOCUS, for the first time Austin and Effness have resources to fall back on. As a result of new agricultural techniques, they have increased their annual yield.
They also have a fruit and herb garden, which means they are better nourished and have fresh food all year round.
In addition, they keep livestock that can be sold when cash is needed for additional medicines or transport costs.
‘I give testimonies about prevention of mother to child transmission to other groups and communities, telling other people they can do the same,’ says Austin. ‘We are a living example.’