An HIV diagnosis that a Uganda mom kept secret until she was on her death bed swiftly rocked her entire family’s life, according to a report.
While bedridden in 2013, the mother, at the prodding of her family, finally revealed that she had been HIV-positive for at least two decades, according to her eldest daughter, Jenipher Mukite, who shared her heartbreaking account with CNN to commemorate World AIDS Day.
In those years, while keeping her diagnosis hidden, the mother, whose name isn’t revealed, went without treatment and gave birth to three children. Mukite said that her mother admitted she resisted medical care because the drugs were large and difficult to consume, CNN reported.
Mukite, then 18, said that she and her siblings, then 14 and 10, were stunned by the likelihood they also were infected.
Their worst fears were soon confirmed: All three children and their father tested positive for HIV.
The World Health Organization reported that a HIV-positive pregnant women have a 15 to 45 percent risk of passing along the virus to their children. With treatment, however, the chance is below 5 percent.
In Uganda, about 6 percent of pregnant women receiving prenatal care are infected with HIV, according to the Strengthening Uganda’s Systems for Treating AIDS Nationally project. Young women are particularly at risk in the region, with those ages 15 to 24 in sub-Saharan Africa more than twice as likely to be HIV-positive.
Experts attribute the staggering numbers to gender norms in the country, including girls having sex with older men at a younger age.
“The epidemic puts young women and girls at a particular disadvantage,” International AIDS Society President Linda-Gail Bekker told CNN. “Girls are at risk earlier.”
Mukite said she contemplated suicide when her mother died and her community shunned her. She said her father, who saw no point in caring for HIV-positive girls, urged her to marry to get her out of the house.
Rather than caving to the pressure, she sought help from a social worker. Mukite, who has been taking antiretroviral drugs since she learned of her infection, is now living with a pastor and studying hairdressing. She also hopes to marry and have children — but after she has finished her studies.