What positive women and an HIV nurse have to say

Why aren’t you breastfeeding your baby?
I gave birth on Saturday, and on Monday they took a blood sample from her tiny hand. I felt really sorry for her, and it made me feel awfully guilty. The results were good. After six weeks she was tested again, and those results were good too. She will be tested for the last time a month from now, and then we will know for sure that everything is okay. I will be happy when I know that she is completely free. During the pregnancy I thought: ‘Those tests are not so nerve wracking, since the chance is so slight that things will go wrong.’ But it wasn’t until they told me the results that I noticed that I had been stressed about it. It had more of an impact on me than I had expected. It is really my biggest fear that Noni could have it.

During my pregnancy I had to be open about my HIV with many people: the obstetrician, the gynaecologist, the paediatrician. Those are all medical people, so you know that it will be confidential. One time it was funny. It was a weekend and I had to go see a family doctor. She looked at my file and asked: ‘Are you still HIV positive?’ I said: ‘Well, yes, that is not going to go away just like that.’ I think she was aware of that, but she was just nervous. It is becoming easier and easier for me to be open about my HIV. Friends who didn’t know I had HIV asked me: ‘Why aren’t you breastfeeding your baby? You really seem like the type to do that.’ Sometimes I would tell them at that point, but not always. Normally speaking, I’m much more into being open. I don’t want to get caught up in a web of lies.
Saskia Welten, in the booklet Treat Her Like a Lady

I don’t dare to do that anymore at my age
My boyfriend would really like to have another child, but I don’t dare to do that anymore. I don’t feel as strong and fit as I used to. If I had met my boyfriend five years earlier, I would do it. I think he is really disappointed that we won’t have a child together. For people from Africa, children are particularly important.

The first question is often: ‘Can I still have a baby?’
When a woman first hears that she has HIV, her very first question is often: ‘Can I still have a baby?’ The answer is yes! We have over two hundred female patients, and some 20 babies are born each year. We discuss with the women the possibilities in terms of becoming pregnant. If the man does not have HIV, the couple can sit down with me or another caregiver, run through the various advantages and disadvantages of self-insemination or unprotected sex, and then make a decision. The pregnancy will naturally be well supervised and the delivery will always take place in hospital. In the second half of the pregnancy, the woman will be given HIV medicines, even if she does not yet need them herself. That is to prevent the baby from becoming infected during birth. She will be advised not to breastfeed her baby, since HIV can be passed on through mother’s milk. And the baby will given HIV medicines in low doses – in the form of a drink – during it’s first month.
Jolanda Schippers, HIV nurse



Hiv Vereniging Nederland

Eerste Helmersstraat 17


020 6 160 160

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020 689 25 77

For questions about living with HIV. Available monday, tuesday and thursday from 2 PM till 10 PM

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