Susan is 26 years old and lives in Lilanda, close to the Mateo and Chunga neighbourhoods of the Zambian Capital of Harare. Supported by The States of Guernsey Overseas Aid & Development Commission, St John Zambia implemented a project for Maternal and Child Health and for HIV testing and treatment in the area. Susan is one of the beneficiaries St John reached with the project. Today, she tells us her story.

 “I have been married for three years, and now I am pregnant. I knew how important it is to start antenatal checks early enough, so I decided to go to the Matero Referral Health Centre to get me and my baby checked. But there were a lot of other pregnant women waiting, so I decided to go to the Main Clinic in Matero for my first ANC check.

Unfortunately, the Clinic was almost as busy as the Referral Centre, and I had no other choice than to wait for my turn. When the nurse finally approached me, she asked where my husband is, because the clinic requires him joining the ANC checks. I told her that he didn’t want to come with me, because he said he is too busy for that. Nevertheless, the nurse checked my health, and she gave me a partner request form, asking my husband to come to the clinic with me."

Susan and her husband take an HIV test with a surprising outcome

"I was surprised that he accepted, and the same week we went together to see the nurse. During one of our pre-test counselling sessions, we learned about the importance of HIV and syphilis tests. We both did the tests, but the outcome was surprising. We were both infected with syphilis, but could start treatment straight away. Although my HIV test was negative, my husband had the virus. The nurse enrolled him for antiviral therapy, and we were advised to use condoms from this day on. Nevertheless, my husband decided he doesn’t want to get treated against HIV. Instead, his mood became worse day by day, and he started mistreating me. He even stopped paying four me and our daily household expenses.

One day, during this difficult situation, I met two St John volunteers on my way to the market. They saw that I was pregnant and asked me if I had already started ANC. They explained the project they were running in my neighbourhood, and what they do to improve the health of pregnant women and their babies. I got curious, and when they asked me if they could come to my home for a short discussion, I invited them over.

The day they visited my husband was at home as well. They invited him to sit with us and asked for his permission for a short discussion. I remember that the topic was on the importance of male involvement during pregnancy, and how to save money for transport to the clinic, for baby clothes and other necessary items. I was glad to have this discussion, because it clearly reflected on the problems I had with my husband at that time. He agreed with the volunteers, and even more surprising to me, he disclosed his HIV status to them. They advised him to enrol for HIV treatment, and he told them he had done so already but didn’t want to take medication."

St John volunteers visit the family

"The volunteers continued visiting us, and taught us different topics around pregnancy and motherhood, such as danger signs during pregnancy. Again and again they talked about the importance of HIV treatment, and finally he agreed to go to the clinic to start his treatment. We also started saving money and, bit by bit, bought items for my pregnancy and delivery, so I will be able to go to the clinic for delivery equipped with everything I needed.

I am forever grateful for the support we received from St John and their volunteers. They did not only give us new knowledge and ensured, my baby and I stay healthy. Through their intervention, my husband finally started his HIV treatment, which brought us even closer together than before.

He now escorts me to the clinic for my ANC visits, and I remind him to take his medication on time. Whenever my friends see the St John volunteers coming to our house, they come running and join our discussions, because they are eager to learn more about safe motherhood, HIV tests and treatment themselves.”

Learn more about out Mother & Baby Programme in Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Uganda