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'I only had intercourse with daddy'

Adolescent, positive and a mother

BY PAULA SAMUELS

Monday, June 07, 2010    

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NINETEEN-year-old Pamela grew up in rural St Andrew. When she was 14 years old, she found out she was not only pregnant but also HIV positive. This is Pamela's story.

"The only sexual intercourse I had was with my daddy who had been abusing me for years. When my mother found out I was pregnant, I told her my father was the only person I had sexual intercourse with. Mommy still did not believe me and until today she still says I am a liar.

"My situation did not change after I had the baby. Daddy still had intercourse with me. Last year, I decided to run away from home because I wanted to be as far away as possible from him.

"I started a new relationship. Even though I had HIV, I really knew nothing about it, but knew that people who had it were scorned. I did not talk about it nor think about it and so I did not tell my boyfriend I had it.

"I am now 19 years old and with another baby. I was told during the pregnancy that I was HIV positive and that was when reality hit. I began to wonder if this is the end of my life and when I would die. I have no family support and I did not know any other positive person. I was basically left in the dark.

"I was very bitter about life and felt sour about myself. I kept wondering what I was supposed to do. The pain of all the things that happened to me was great. I really felt like I couldn't make it.

"I continue to struggle through my days. The pain is still there but I have come to realise that there is life after HIV. I am now getting support from Eve for Life, an organisation that supports women living with HIV.

"The organisation contacted me at a time when things were really bad. I did not know there could be joy in my life again. It is as if I have found life again. I realise I had some hope, even though there are some challenging times.

"I am now thinking about picking up the broken pieces of my life and continuing on my journey. I still do not have a relationship with my mother, but I hope this will change in the near future."

Pamela is part of Eve for Life's I am Alive Club and also participates in a programme for adolescent and youth mothers living with HIV. The latter is sponsored by the US Ambassador's Fund and provides one-on-one counselling for the young mothers, group support and skills building in parenting, positive prevention and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Co-ordinator of the programme Joy Crawford explained that "HIV-positive young mothers are extremely vulnerable because of their unique situation of being adolescents. Our programme is designed not just to give them information, but to model and coach positive life skills".

As such, the programme utilises mature HIV-positive women who act as mentors for the young women and positive reinforcements to facilitate changes in behaviour and attitude.

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