Ndéye Astou found out about her status at the birth of her second baby in 1998. “It was a total shock,” she recalls. A mother of four, Ndéye Astou is a strong advocate of reproductive health rights for women living with HIV. In West and Central Africa, the number of children born with the virus is disproportionately high, as women – fearing rejection – fail to partake in programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
The Global Fund partnership supports Senegal’s commitment to eliminating new HIV infections among children. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of new infections in children was halved, and 55 percent of pregnant women had access to antiretroviral treatment in 2016.
After noticing the absence of women in several HIV groups, Ndéye Astou decided to create Aboya, an oasis of hope where women share, in total freedom, their joys and sorrows and take care of each other. About 350 women meet weekly in a secret location hidden in the suburbs of the capital city to benefit from counseling services, financial and social support.
The majority of women attending the sessions confessed that they prefer to hide their status to avoid being shunned by their relatives. Stigma significantly affects the HIV response. The fear of the social disgrace undermines the ability of individuals and families to protect themselves and seek treatment. Prejudices shown by health professionals also discourage people from having an honest discussion about their sexual life and from seeking care.