Children born of hope in Viet Nam - Photo feature from the UNAIDS OUTLOOK Report 2010. Photo
Credit: UNAIDS/Justine Mott
Hand in hand with her five-year-old son at 7 a.m., Ngan hurries out of her small home in Thanh Xuan, the area in Hanoi where she lives. She is on her way to do some early morning grocery shopping before taking her son to his kindergarten, just like the many other mothers you can see when a new day starts in the city. But Ngan’s story is different: she is HIV-positive and is now 22 weeks into her second pregnancy.
Ngan still remembers the shock of her HIV positive result at a routine antenatal check-up during her first pregnancy five years ago. The following months, when she dealt with her own emotions and fears, were tough. At the same time, Ngan faced discrimination from the community and even her own family. The anxiety of transmitting the virus to her baby was with her day and night.
Thanks to the early discovery of Ngan’s HIV status, she received antiretroviral therapy during the first quarter of her pregnancy. Huy, Ngan’s son, was born a healthy boy free of HIV in October 2004.
Ngan considers herself lucky — she had access to prevention of mother-to-child services. Without these services, the chances of passing HIV to the baby are 30–40%. With the provision of comprehensive prevention services, the transmission rate can be reduced to less than 2%.
HIV-positive women in Viet Nam’s provinces who want to become mothers are still concerned about where to get comprehensive care for both mother and child before, during and after delivery. Better equipped obstetric facilities with staff knowledgeable on HIV and prevention of mother-to-child-transmission are much needed at the provincial level.
As the sun sets over Hanoi, Ngan has already picked up Huy from the kindergarten, and they make their way home on the bustling streets of the city.
Helping each other out after a long day, Ngan and her husband Quang cook together in their small house in the Thanh Xuan district of Hanoi.
Ngan and Quang have regained the acceptance of their neighbours because people appreciate that they lead a healthy life. Ngan’s parents-inlaw, whose other two sons died from drug use, are proud of their eldest son for the support and care he shows his family.
The evening is not ending yet for husband and wife. Ngan is an active member of the White Dove Club, a self-help group of people living with HIV covering the southern district of Thanh Xuan. Every night Ngan visits locations frequented by injecting drug users in the area. The White Dove Club team collects used syringes and needles and distributes clean ones to the people who inject drugs. Her husband Quang, a former drug user, drives Ngan around while their son stays at home with his grandparents.