She offers a friendly smile and advice to the women who arrive early in the morning at the DREAM Centre, in Beira, Mozambique. Josefa was one of the first patients with HIV at this health centre and one of the first to be treated by the DREAM programme (Drug Resources Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition).
Today, more than one million people benefit from the programme and about fifteen thousand children were born healthy via the vertical prevention programme, first implemented in Mozambique almost ten years ago, and now used in other African countries.
“My name is Josefa, I'm Mozambican and the mother of five children. I discovered the Manga DREAM Centre, Beira, in 2003. I took the HIV test because I was pregnant and they told me it was good to know everything about my state of health. I didn't feel sick and didn't want to take the test but I did. Then it was time to hear the results. I was afraid. The nurse started talking to me and gradually told me that I was HIV positive.
She also explained that this was not a death sentence, like many people, like myself, thought... But what would I say to my family? What would my future be like? I thought about my children, who wouldn't have a mother's love. I cried for a month! Then, I started my treatment. I never missed and always took my pills. Then the day of the birth came and I had the baby. I didn't cry any more. Trust was my salvation. My baby was my salvation! Convincing my husband to take the test was very difficult. But one day he showed up at the centre. His feet were heavy ... He tested positive. Our daughter is negative. It was confirmed when she was 18 months old. I, an HIV-positive mother, gave birth to an uninfected baby. I jumped for joy that day! In the months that followed, the workers at DREAM asked me to come to work here, retelling my experience to encourage other patients to get treatment. That’s what I do now, after attending a training course. Part of my job is here at the centre, another part is visiting patients in their homes, giving advice, monitoring medication, teaching how to cook corn meal, showing people the rules of hygiene. What motivates me is a very strong thought in my head: If I was able to save my daughter, other mothers can be saved and save the lives of their children. Today, my dream has become my mission! “
Josefa is just one of thousands of women who, since 2003, are assisted with tritherapy at DREAM centres. The PMTCT (preventing mother to child transmission) programme was developed by the Sant’Egidio Community in Mozambique as part of the government's policies to combat HIV/AIDS. Currently, the program-me is being implemented in ten African countries: Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Nigeria.
DREAM focuses on pregnant women and the mother-baby unit, as they are the real future of Africa. In the centres, the women learn that babies of HIV positive mothers can be infected in three ways: the virus can be transmitted du-ring pregnancy, at the birth and via breastfeeding. With no form of prevention, there is 30% chance of passing the virus on to the baby. With anti-retroviral tritherapy, administered from the twenty-forth week of pregnancy and until the ninth month after childbirth (so babies can be breast-fed), 98% of babies are born uninfected. In addition, mothers continue to be treated, which is the only way to prevent the huge in-crease in the number of children orphaned.