Saving more than one life

In Chad, thanks to systematic HIV screening among malnourished children, families can hope for a better future

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In the Salamat region, Mariam, 22, sits out-of-sight inside a small office in the health center where she starts telling her story.

“Just a year ago, Ali, my 3-year-old son was admitted to the Nutrition Unit of this health center, he also had diarrhea and a lot of fever. Upon arrival, they screened him for HIV and someone came to tell me that my child was positive. I was really worried, where did this disease come from? I then voluntarily asked to be tested. My test was positive. I was scared but the nurses told me that if we take the medicines quickly, we could stay healthy.”

Mariam immediately thought about the health of her husband. “He had to be tested, I brought him to the health center. He was negative.” Édouard Gormo Lotouin, the head of the health center interrupts the conversation “I want to tell you how proud I am of Mariam, not only did she voluntarily get tested, but she also brought her husband. This is exactly the behavior we want from people who discover they have HIV.

Her husband’s reaction was also exemplary. “He said in front of me that he did not care how she caught this disease. She will always stay his wife and he will not abandon her. Despite the disease, they will live together.” adds Édouard Gormo Lotouin. Mariam nods and insists on the exemplary behavior of her husband. “Since that day, I have never felt any changes in the love that my husband bears me.”

Thanks to the systematic screening, when Mariam and Ali where admitted in the nutrition treatment unit, they received the appropriate antiretroviral treatment for HIV. “Since then, my son and I have been taking our medications regularly and we are in good health.”

Mariam was pregnant when she found that Ali and herself were HIV positive. ‘As soon as I was tested positive for HIV. The doctors explained to me that I could still give birth to a healthy child with some treatment. I finally had a daughter, Halimé, she is now a year old. She has been tested recently and she is negative.”

Mariam is confronted to the misconceptions on HIV in her community, which unfortunately leads people not to get tested. “People need to be tested and treated if they prove to be HIV positive. Since I take the medication I am well and I know it is the best solution but the people here are really unaware of this. I would like to share my experience with my community but it is difficult. I can only talk with the people who understand me.”

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Mariam stands in the door way of the health center hoping the best for Halimé and wishing that one day she will come out of the shadow to raise awareness in her community.

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UNICEF, with the support of its partners, has launched a plan to strengthen the national response to HIV. In the Guera, Batha and Salamat regions, the initiative to integrate systematic HIV screening among malnourished children in Ambulatory and Therapeutic Nutrition Unit has permitted to test the serology of 4,342 children out of 5,930 malnourished children admitted.

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