By Beth Skorochod, Senior Technical Advisor, Sexual Reproductive Health and TB Department, Population Services International
Pililani Julius is twenty-three years old, from Mtambalika village in the Mulanje district of Malawi. Already the mother of two children, Pililani recently lost her third child, a death likely due to pediatric HIV complications. At the time, Pililani did not know that she was HIV positive — meaning that she was unable to take life-saving treatment that could have prevented transmission to her baby.
Today, Pililani is pregnant with her fourth child — and, this time, she is armed with knowledge. Prior to becoming pregnant, Pililani and her husband had watched an open-air drama performance run by PSI/Malawi, which explained the importance of knowing one’s HIV status and of taking treatment to prevent transmission during pregnancy. Pililani and her husband are now on treatment, protecting their own health and future as well as that of the new baby on the way.
Pililani’s story is an important and hopeful reminder of one of the global health community’s greatest success stories: the prevention, and hopefully, soon-to-be elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Today, thanks to the combined efforts of governments, companies, NGOs, health professionals, researchers and everyday volunteers, more children are born free of HIV than ever before.