Celebrating the dream of a world free of HIV
For more than 15 years physicians working at the AMPATH Centre have been treating patients with HIV. They have developed education, treatment protocols, and drug regimens for pregnant women to reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission during childbirth. And, based on the data, enormous progress has been made decreasing the odds from 45% to an astonishingly low 3% likelihood of transmission.
In the context of so much progress, it would be understandable if both healthcare workers and women themselves would simply assume that in 2018 there is a new norm - an unborn child would no longer be at risk of transmission.
When experience matches expectations, it is possible that we miss the opportunity to be amazed.
What was intended to be a quick stop at the Turbo AMPATH Comprehensive Care Clinic on the morning of February 2nd defied this. We arrived in the midst of a glorious celebration. They called it a Graduation - more than 100 babies born to HIV+ mothers since 2015 have been declared HIV-Free. These toddlers were dressed in caps and gowns. Tents were set up to protect the revelers from midday heat. There was face-painting, balloons, cake, and speeches. Everyone was singing and dancing . . . the mothers, the children, the healthcare workers, the guests.
Earlier in the week Joe Mamlin challenged our group of visitors to 'remain vulnerable to a dream'. As we remain vulnerable to new dreams, let us stay vulnerable to old dreams. The dream of eliminating transmission of the HIV virus to a baby during birth.
What a great example we can take from the dedicated staff at Turbo's Clinic . . . may we never become so accustomed to new standards of care that we miss the opportunity to celebrate with every mother when tests reveal that her baby is HIV-free.