Rita Momoh qualified as a midwife in 2012, having worked for a number of years as a nurse. She joined the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) Mamacare team almost two years ago.

Mamacare clinics were launched by Her Excellency Mrs Toyin Saraki, Founder of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), and have educated more than 200,000 mothers about birth and children’s health since their inception nearly three years ago.

"Less than 1% of pregnant mothers have access to counselling and testing services for HIV in Nigeria."

The overall care of the mother and child is central to the philosophy of Mamacare, which means that alongside safe birth, breastfeeding and care for the child, subjects such as drugs, domestic violence and savings are discussed too – as well as sexual health and wellbeing. Mothers and their partners are educated about HIV by Mamacare midwives, who also train health workers.

About 4.4 per cent of women attending antenatal clinics in Nigeria are infected with HIV. An increasing number of children are infected with the virus, through mother-to-child-transmission. Yet less than 1% of pregnant mothers have access to counselling and testing services for HIV in Nigeria. According to UNAIDS latest estimates, about 240,000 children are living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.

 

Rita's experience

 

One expectant mother registered for Mamacare Antenatal Care (ANC) classes at Lugbe, Abuja, when she was five months pregnant. Both her and the father of the child were HIV positive. Rita counselled the mother on four separate occasions, in a centre connected to a primary healthcare clinic, and ensured that appropriate medication was available for the baby. Medication was distributed to the nurses and Rita herself kept an appropriate supply at hand.

"HIV-positive parents in Nigeria, have to struggle against prejudice and stigma to get the treatment that they and their children need."

The baby was delivered in a PHC clinic late one evening. Tragically, the baby was born with his intestines outside of his body. Rita was called by the nurses and took the family from hospital to hospital. Each time, as HIV-positive parents, they were refused care and the surgery to save the baby’s life. Eventually, the following evening, thanks to persistence from Rita and sponsorship from the WBFA, the baby received surgery.

That surgery came too late however to save the baby’s life. HIV-positive parents in Nigeria, Rita explains, have to struggle against prejudice and stigma to get the treatment that they and their children need. In this case that prejudice proved to be deadly. Education, delivered by Mamacare midwives and health workers across Nigeria, will be essential in reducing transmission and ensuring that mothers such as the ones Rita counsels are treated with respect and dignity.