by Mamahkosi “Mother” Lerotholi, an HIV-positive Mentor Mother in Lesotho
My baby daughter was infected with HIV and when she was three years old, she became really sick. On the way to the doctor, I was this frail woman, baby on her back, and no one to help. I soon realised something was wrong. My baby’s weight felt like it had doubled. I stopped to listen to her breathing but I could hear nothing. I wanted to believe nothing had happened but I knew, deep inside me, that my baby had died, right on my back!
I returned home with a sore heart and my baby was laid to rest a few days later.
Life was hard. I had no money and no one wanted to be seen near me. Even in the clinic, most nurses didn’t want to work with people living with HIV with fear of being infected. I started selling fruits just so my two remaining children and I could survive but people in the market avoided my stall like plague.
A day I will never forget is when a man from Cape Town came looking for women who could work for mothers2mothers to support newly diagnosed pregnant women and new mothers. My life changed forever! I have been with m2m for six years now and I never get tired of meeting new women. I feel so happy when they tell me that their babies have tested HIV negative, which has become the norm. The memory of my child dying on my back lives with me every day, but all the children whose lives we save ease the pain.
Each year in November in the Botha-Bothe District we hold a celebration. We slaughter a cow, sing, dance, eat, and listen to guest speakers all in celebration of my life living with HIV. I celebrate this life because it afforded me a chance to make a difference in the world I live in. I take pride in all the lives that I and my Mentor Mothers have saved.
Everyone who knows me calls me MOTHER. I am a mother, not just to my children but to all the children in my country. I am a mother to all the mothers I meet and to everyone who has joined me in my efforts to do something different.