Connie’s story is one of both heartbreak and inspiration. Before she was diagnosed with HIV, Connie unknowingly passed the virus on to her three children during pregnancy, all of whom later passed away. Somehow, Connie found the strength to go on. Thanks to lifesaving ARV medication, Connie is not only alive and thriving, but working to help stop the spread of HIV within her community. Connie serves as an ambassador for (RED) and the Global Fund and was able to come to New York to celebrate an important milestone with us: the 5th birthday of Lubona, her daughter who was born HIV-free in 2012.
Watch the video from her trip and read more of Connie’s story below
In 2000, 1,200 babies were born with HIV every day.
Today, that number has dropped to 400.
Without adequate access to testing and anti-retroviral medications (ARV’s) in her home country of Zambia, there was no way for Connie to know that she and her husband were infected, and that she was passing it to her children.
“People started talking: She’s dying from AIDS...she’s the next person to die.”
After her children succumbed to AIDS, many assumed Connie would be next. But in 2004, on her birthday, Connie began taking ARV’s, a lifesaving type of drug that not only combats the advance of the virus, but prevents its passage from a mother to her unborn child.
In 2000, a day’s worth of ARVs cost roughly $27. Today, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Global Fund, that number is just 20 cents.
Instead of succumbing to the disease, Connie was determined to learn as much as she could about it, and began working as a counselor to help people get information about HIV, and counseling women who had become infected.
“I’m an HIV/AIDS activist. I help people.”
As she saw many of the women she counseled having HIV-free children thanks to ARV treatments, Connie wondered if she, too, could be a mother again. After what she had been through, she was scared, but knew firsthand the effectiveness of the medication.
“I still can’t believe that she’s mine.”
Now, Connie’s story is no longer just her own; in 2012, she gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl, Lubona. Today, Connie continues to work as an AIDS activist, using her own experience to help others fight stigma, get tested and educate others on the importance of adhering to HIV treatment.
In 2000, 1,200 babies were born with HIV every day. Today, that number has been reduced by nearly two-thirds.
“We have made a lot of change. But we can still do more.”Connie and Lubona, 2017