Cynthia’s Story: From Suicide Attempts to Becoming a PMTCT Mentor Mother

Cynthia Uche Goyko, PMTCT Counselor poses by her office door at the Clinic

Cynthia Uche Goyko is a 37-year-old Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) Mentor Mother who first learned of her HIV status in 2009 while receiving antenatal care for her first pregnancy at a private clinic.

Narrating her ordeal, Cynthia revealed that knowing her HIV status led her into depression, and she almost took her life. She said, “At that, I just wanted to abort the pregnancy and end it all — I tried committing suicide.”

After much persuasion from her husband and the doctor for over five days, she finally agreed to visit a facility where she could access quality HIV care, and the doctor referred her to the Defence Headquarters Medical Centre, Abuja. This marked a turning point in Cynthia’s life.

At the facility, she was directed to the PMTCT Section, where she met dedicated counselors that spoke to her and provided compassionate care and support. Cynthia said, “Apart from the treatment, they talked to me and counseled me on what I can do concerning my baby. They told me how I’ll be taking my drugs and that if I take them, my baby will be protected. In fact, when the counselor heard of my suicide attempts, she took her time to always visit me. She was very helpful and supportive.”

She received the needed support at the facility until she gave birth to her first child who turned out to be HIV-free. Her words: “When we carried out the test for my baby and it came out negative, I was so happy. That was the happiest day of my life.”

Cynthia speaks to a woman at the clinic

Thirteen years later, Cynthia is now a proud mother of three HIV-free children and has also become a PMTCT Mentor Mother who counsels other HIV mothers sharing her testimony in the process.

On why she decided to help other women like her, Cynthia said, “In 2017 when I became a Mentor Mother, most people were still trying to hide and cover themselves, but I said to myself that this program has really helped me, I can also help another people instead of hiding.”

Speaking on how she has influenced other HIV mothers, Cynthia said, “I have become like a major support and a source of succor for them. I have a group for them, we meet and share our fears and I listen to all their concerns. We talk and chat, they open up to me about their fears, most of them confide in me, even things that they can’t tell their family members, they trust me and talk to me about them. I always listen to them and provide support just the same way the counselors were able to help me out during my suicide attempt.

“I tell them I have three kids, and all of them are HIV-free. I sometimes show them pictures of my kids so they can see how healthy they look. From there, they get encouraged to start taking their drugs.”

Speaking on how she has benefitted from this program, she said, “I wasn’t doing any work before the opportunity to become a mentor-mother came in 2017. I’m so grateful for this opportunity. Being a mentor-mother has really improved my livelihood, I get paid every month, I have attended several training programs, I can even provide HIV Testing Services. I have attended PMTCT trainings, I have been trained in HTS counseling, I have even been trained in EID (Early Infant Diagnosis) testing which I had no plan of doing before. I have done so many other trainings and they have greatly improved my life and my career.”

This 37-year-old woman is one of the many mothers who have benefitted from the PMTCT program. These mothers who initially visit the clinic, being ignorant, confused, and somewhat adrift, end up becoming active participants, confident, and determined to live their best lives.

Cynthia testified to this when she said, “At first, I was so afraid, even when I visit the facility to get my antiretroviral drugs, I’ll always be afraid of people seeing me and what they would say. But after my third child turned out HIV-free just like the other two, that fear of stigmatization just disappeared. Now, I can stand and talk anywhere about it.”

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