A South African vlogger, TV host, podcaster and HIV activist dispelled the common myths pertaining to women living with HIV and reproduction by telling her story.
Nozi Qamngana-Mayaba of Johannesburg shared the measures she and her husband, Sikhumbuzo Mayaba, took that led to their forthcoming bundle of joy in an Instagram post on Monday, inspiring other women with the virus who were told Qamngana-Mayaba’s outcome was impossible.
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The podcaster received her positive HIV status in August 2013 at 22. Despite the doctor’s recommendation to abstain from unprotected sex, Qamngana-Mayaba and her husband defied the doctor’s advice, leading to her pregnancy nine months after her diagnosis. She ultimately decided to terminate her pregnancy.
“My CD4 count (an indicator of immune system function in people living with HIV) and viral load were fine,” Qamngana-Mayaba wrote in her post. “I didn’t have to start treatment immediately. TIV policies changed 2015/16. Despite CD4 and viral load levels, everyone was encouraged to start treatment. I started treatment in 2017. o side effects to treatment.”
Mayaba is HIV-negative, making them a discordant couple — a couple where one partner has a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and the other doesn’t.
“For the first few years of our dating life, we used condoms while I was on ARVs,” she said.
ARVs are antiretroviral HIV drugs that prevent the retrovirus from replicating.
“ARVs helped me to get to the U=U stage. This means undetectable equals [untransmittable],” Qamngana-Mayaba continued. “ARVs help to minimize the amount of the virus inside the body to levels where you cannot infect another person.”
Mayaba went on PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) once the couple decided to try for a baby. PrEP is what HIV-negative people take if they don’t want to contract the virus. She got pregnant in 2022.
However, she had to stop taking ARVs due to insufficient efficiency.
“My doctor changed me to TLD, generic HIV combination,” she said. “A new drug that has been proven to reduce viral load and increase CD4 count quicker. Within four weeks, my numbers went back to normal. I’ve only been taking my ARVs and the prescribed ‘normal’ pregnancy vitamins.”
Qamngana-Mayaba’s treatment doesn’t just stop with her; she’s taking measures to protect her baby boy.
“My son will be given a syrup called Nevaraphine for six weeks. This is used as part of newborn antiretroviral regimens to prevent perinatal transmission of HIV from mom to child. He’ll be tested between birth to 14 days; 1 to 2 months of age and 3 to six months of age.”
Qamngana-Mayaba can breastfeed if she doesn’t mix feed, meaning feed the baby breastmilk and formula. It’s because mixed feeding increases the risk of HIV transmission.
The best part is that she can enjoy a normal, vaginal birth if the chance of HIV transmission remains low and doesn’t develop a reason for cesarean delivery. For an HIV-positive woman to have a vaginal birth, her viral load has to be 1,000 copies/mL or less close to delivery.
Many HIV-positive women are told that it is nearly impossible to get pregnant and that even if they did, they’d be more than likely transmitting the virus to their unborn child. However, Qamngana-Mayaba’s story proved these myths false. It showed that despite their predicament, they too could enjoy the wonders of motherhood, from a healthy pregnancy to a healthy vaginal birth.