The MTCT Term

The term MTCT in HIV refers to “Mother to Child Transmission”. This means that the child gets infected during the labor or by breast milk. As far as I know, the child doesn’t get infected during the pregnancy because the virus doesn’t cross the placenta, unless that woman has a very high viral load.

During this last year I learned that there are countries were people living with HIV don’t have a viral load test, because there’s just no money to get the necessary equipment for that. There are other countries were most of the services are in the main cities, so a lot of people living in rural areas don’t have all the necessary services, including viral load test. In this context, I don’t think that goals like “elimination” of MTCT are quite real, instead I would say “reducing” MTCT.
As most of you may know, I was born with HIV. Trying to support a guy that got infected by sexual transmission or contact last weeks, I realized that my mom raised me with love, and this is why I don’t hate my mom, or can feel that anger that a lot of people living with HIV still feel, or felt in some moment, with the person that “infected them”. I know that didn’t have a choice; I couldn’t use a condom, say no or use a sterilized needle, but this happened anyway, it’s here and I have to deal with it, hate it or love it. The way I got infected doesn’t make me better or a victim.

Now, thinking about the term “MTCT”, I don’t really like it, at all. This is the only term (as far as I know) that we use to describe a transmission, which makes reference to the person that infected the other one. The way I see it, is like adjudicate the whole responsibility (more likely guilt) to the mother. I remember that my mom, ask me for forgiveness several times, and even when I was naïve to understand guilt, I always told her that I didn’t have anything to forgive her for. Now that I’m 26, I think exactly the same way, but that never gave her peace, and even when she was adherent, she always felt guilty, and that what’s actually weakened her until she dies almost 15 years ago.

We shouldn’t, we cannot adjudicate the whole responsibility to mothers living with HIV, if we don’t have effective sexual education programs with gender and human rights perspective. It’s unreasonable for mothers if they don’t have the right knowledge, if they don’t get to choose, if they don’t have access to a universal health care. It’s unfair for mothers if they are not aware of their own bodies and rights, if you don’t empower them.  If we use this term on mothers, you can’t expect them to have peace and a good mental health, and you can’t expect for those children to have good mental health and adherence.

I believe that language is more than a way to communicate; words are symbols, constructions, creations and realities. The word “freedom” doesn’t mean the same for a colonizer that for a colonized.
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