Inspiring journeys of two mothers to stay productive with HIV

Two women shared their life journeys to be productive with HIV and to continue living their lives to the fullest. Their stories inspired the participants of the ILO’s VCT@Work Programme in Bandung and Medan.

Article | Medan, North Sumatra and Bandung, West Java | 24 October 2019
As part of the HIV education and socialization, the ILO’s voluntarily HIV test and counseling at work (VCT@Work) programme provides an experience and testimonial sharing session with people with HIV. The session aims to give better understanding about the real life journey of people with HIV to continue maintaining their health conditions, productivities and lives with their families and organizations.

Ernawati shared her life journey
During the recently joint VCT@Work programme of the ILO and PT Angkasa Pura II for its Husein Sastranegara and Kualanamu International Airports, two women who were infected from their spouses were invited to share their stories. This was part of the effort to eliminate stigma that virus HIV would not affect regular people such as housewives and mothers with only one spouse.

I have been living with HIV since 2012. I was previously a nurse, but I have decided to dedicate my life as an HIV activist to help disseminating information related HIV and to provide assistance to people who need support and care."

Ghea Katarina, a mother of two, at the Kualanamu International Airport in Medan
“This is also to demonstrate the current reality that one of the most vulnerable population to HIV is housewives and mothers. Many people still consider key populations as the most vulnerable population such as people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender persons, sex workers and so forth,” explained Early Dewi Nuriana, the ILO’s programme officer for HIV Prevention Programme.

Ernawati, a mother of four, told the story of her life living with HIV during the VCT@Work programme for staff and crews of Husein Sastranegara International Airport in Bandung; while Ghea Katarina, a mother of two, at the Kualanamu International Airport in Medan. They both got infected by their husbands, and they both have one child with HIV. They are both productive workers and mothers and continue living a healthy life.

Katarina Ghea
They both admitted that they learnt about their conditions when their husbands’ health conditions continued to deteriorate. They both learnt that they were HIV positive when the hospitals suggested them to be HIV tested.

“I did not even know what HIV was at that time. I was so shocked and I did not know what to do. I was pregnant at that time with my third child and my child was born with HIV,” told Erna. Ghea also felt the same turmoil emotion, especially when she was banned to interact with her two children.

I just gave birth to my fourth child who is negative and my husband really supports and accepts me the way I am. I like sharing my story to show that we can still live a healthy and productive life with HIV. My focus is to take care of all of my children."

Ernawati, a mother of four, told the story of her life living with HIV during the VCT@Work programme for staff and crews of Husein Sastranegara International Airport in Bandung
But after they further learnt about HIV and seek for support from relevant organizations, they started accepted their conditions and began to take a good care of their lives by regularly consuming the antiretroviral. As a result, they now live healthy and productive, and even receive a full support from their families.

“I have been living with HIV since 2012. I was previously a nurse, but I have decided to dedicate my life as an HIV activist to help disseminating information related HIV and to provide assistance to people who need support and care,” said Ghea, adding that she was pleased with the increasing number of people who have openly accessed the HIV treatment facility.

My perception on HIV has changed. I thought that it only affects people with risky behaviours. I have respects to the determination and hopes shown in the testimony."

Adi Saputra, one of the participants
Moving on with her life, Ernawati is now remarried with a husband who openly accepts her status. “I just gave birth to my fourth child who is negative and my husband really supports and accepts me the way I am. I like sharing my story to show that we can still live a healthy and productive life with HIV. My focus is to take care of all of my children,” she shared.

Their life journeys inspired many participants to join the VCT@Work. Most of the participants were disbelief that wives and mothers were also vulnerable to HIV. Adi Saputra, one of the participants, said that he did not realize that HIV and AIDS was everybody’s business.

“My perception on HIV has changed. I thought that it only affects people with risky behaviours. I have respects to the determination and hopes shown in the testimony,” he pondered.