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How I Successfully Managed My HIV-Positive Pregnancy

February 14, 2012

How I Successfully Managed My HIV-Positive Pregnancy

During my pregnancy in 2009, I knew that it would be very important for me to take my antiretroviral (ARV) medicine every day so that my baby would be born HIV negative. Mother-to-child transmission (pdf) does not occur during pregnancy; it occurs during birth. I needed to be strong and healthy enough to carry the baby to term. I also needed to suppress the virus to reduce the likelihood of infecting my child.

Historically, doctors have recommended that HIV-positive mothers give birth by cesarean section to reduce the risk that the baby will contract HIV while passing through the birth canal. But by taking ARV medication, mothers can also give birth vaginally without infecting the baby. I wanted to deliver vaginally.

My biggest problem during the pregnancy was keeping the medication down. I had to take five pills a day, and it seemed like every time I swallowed them, I would throw up. For some reason, the medicine would never stay down. Throwing up left me feeling weak. Daryl, my fiancé and my child's father, stayed by my side and cleaned up after me.

As my belly got bigger at about four or five months, the medication problem only got worse. To show me support and that the pills could be swallowed, Daryl, who does not have HIV, even went as far as taking one of them for me. I had more problems swallowing one pill than I did the others -- a big gel cap with a bad smell to it. But trying to take them all together only made this problem worse. I tried many different techniques to keep the pills down, and I held my breath and ate cookies, candy and other sweets to get the medication taste out of my mouth. I choked down the medicine because I didn't want to risk passing HIV along to my baby.

Fortunately, my diligence kept my HIV under control and at good levels. The rest of my pregnancy went well.

At 12:18 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009, our beautiful baby boy was born. He weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces, and was 19 inches long. Although I'd wanted to deliver him vaginally, I'd needed a C-section after all. When I saw our baby, I cried tears of joy and fear: joy that he was finally here, and fear because I didn't know if Daryl and I would be good parents, or what the road ahead had in store for my new family and me. Our new son, Daryl Omar Gibson-Hunte, was so small and vulnerable and still looked funny to me. Despite that, we could clearly see that he had his father's mouth and my forehead and eyes.

Once we took baby Daryl home, we had to give him medication orally every 12 hours for the first six weeks of his life. Although he had been born HIV negative, we wanted to ensure that he stayed that way, so we gave him the medication as an added precaution.

Lolisa Gibson takes pride in using her passion for helping others by sharing her story.

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This article was provided by The Black AIDS Institute. Visit Black AIDS Institute's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
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