In March 2004, my husband fell ill and I decided that it was time to go for an HIV test. The results showed I had the virus, which was devastating news. But that was "then," and I am so glad to be able to tell the story of "now." I am not alone in having a story which starts with such sadness, but today it is one of great happiness and health.
I live in Zambia, a country which over the last two decades has lost far too many of its people to this deadly virus. And even though we're still battling the pandemic - roughly 1 million people are living with HIV in Zambia today - we are moving in the right direction because so many people today are on treatment and living with HIV, not needlessly dying.
This change had to start somewhere, and, in Zambia, it began with incredible work by organizations like The Global Fund to fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which have helped to deliver life-saving antiretroviral treatment to those in need. To date, the Global Fund has disbursed over $335 million dollars to fight AIDS in Zambia through testing, treatment, counseling and education.
But how are these grants made possible? In addition to governments financing Global Fund programs, the work of organizations like (RED) is absolutely critical, not only for driving money to the fight, but also for awareness. Through their partnerships with some of the world's best known companies, such as Apple and Starbucks, (RED) has not only managed to generate more than $200 million for the Global Fund to help fight against AIDS in Africa, but they have focused so much of the world's attention around ending this terrible disease.
And the beginning of the end of AIDS starts with helping mothers like me prevent the transmission of the HIV virus to our unborn babies. I wish I had access to treatment in the 90's...access, which not only could have prevented me passing on the virus to my three children, but also could have kept them alive today. We didn't have treatment then, but I do now.
This past November, I gave birth to my youngest child: a beautiful daughter named Lubona after her sister, who she will never get to meet and who would have been 23 this year, had she lived. Words cannot express the joy I feel when I hold her in my arms today. She is HIV negative, and I am a healthy mother able to raise my healthy child. To me, this is the definition of a modern day, medical miracle.
Today I have the privilege of seeing other women and children in Zambia, faced with the same life-threatening predicament, participate in programs which really and truly are driving the end of AIDS.
This blog post was produced by The Huffington Post and (RED) as part of a series to support the CHOOSE (RED), SAVE LIVES campaign this June. To see other posts in the series and to see content from "The Big Push" (the initiative by the Global Fund, the recipient of (RED) monies, to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria), click here. For more information about how you can join the fight against AIDS, please go to www.joinred.com/CHOOSERED.