22-year old Owethu* was admitted into the Mentor Mother Program when she was 5 months pregnant. As of Xhosa tradition a mother should be in the care of her own mother during pregnancy. In her case she moved back home to Tsolo. This meant that we could not attend to her since we do not have mentor mothers in that area.

She came back when the baby was 3 weeks old. When still under our care prior to her leaving, Owethu would not tell us whether she was HIV+ or not. When she came back with the baby we picked it up from the baby’s Road to Health Booklet that she was indeed HIV+. The baby’s birth weight was low, weighing 1,9kg. At 3 weeks she weighed 2,4kg and at 1 month was weighing 2,6kg. Since the client had not disclosed herself to us, we could not broach the subject and waited patiently for the words to come from her month. The visits became more strained as the mother started being very impatient and her attitude worsened towards us. Since we knew her status, we knew that we had to be patient and keep educating and keeping on encouraging her not to mix-feed. Despite our efforts, the mother stopped breastfeeding at 3 months and started mix feeding her baby. At 10 weeks we made a referral to the clinic for a PCR test, after seeing that the baby’s weight was stagnant.

It was evident that she had not disclosed to her parents either or her in-laws. At 1 year the baby lost weight, weighing 7,1 kg, she was looking sick and not active at all. We referred her for a mantoux test and HCT test and went back to check up on the baby a day after we found her looking weak. The in-laws informed us that the baby never came back from the clinic, she was referred straight to hospital that same day. The child tested positive for TB and HIV with a CD4 count of 15,9. The baby was put on ARVs and finished her TB treatment in December 2017.

The mother now feels free to speak about her status to us, she’s looking much healthier. The now 1-year, 7 month baby weighs 9,4kg, she is fully rehabilitated and a very active baby. The mother smiles the minute we walk into her homestead.

*Names have been changed to protect identities