I was still trying to recognize Ibu Teresia when, from across the street, a stocky woman with her hair neatly tied waved her hands toward me.
We went to her house which was barely five minutes away from the corners of Jalan Alak in Kupang District. She asked me to keep my shoes on, as she was worried my socks would pick up the dust from the cement floor.
She then asked permission to dress up before doing the interview, she returned in a yellow shirt with ‘Citizens for AIDS’ on her left shoulder.
On her lap was Alinea (2 years old). It hasn’t been a year since Ibu Teresia adopted the girl – who is HIV positive. Ibu Teresia, as if she could read my mind, she said, “Her mother died when I was working with patients at a hospital. Alinea was infected by HIV since she was born.”
Ibu Teresia said that she fell in love with Alinea at first sight when she saw her lying on the bed next to an HIV-positive woman who was fighting for her life. Ibu Teresia helped to change Alinea mother’s diaper, , at that moment Alinea’s mum asked Ibu Teresia to look after her daughter.
A few moments later Alinea lost her mum, Ibu Teresia and the family decided to adopt Alinea.
At home, Ibu Teresia educates her children and husband about how to take care of Aliena – with love and compassion. Ibu Teresia has five children, she always reminds them to let her know if Alinea gets injured.
Ibu Teresia has been working with eight HIV positive people since 2014. Not only does she make sure her own household is taken care of, she also actively visits and sits with HIV patients to help them get their treatment at the hospital.
“People with HIV need our support and especially the motivation from their own family.” said Ibu Teresia. You can tell by her stories, she always puts everyone else first.
“Every story from Ibu Teresia shows how she always puts everyone else first.”
One of the HIV patients that Ibu Teresia assists is pregnant. This poses a health threat to the baby in her womb, as there is a real risk of mother-to-child transmission. This is also why all expecting mothers need to take a HIV test during pregnancy. Today, the test has been made a part of the routine pregnancy check-up throughout all healthcare facilities.
“These babies are innocent. They know absolutely nothing of what happened to their mothers. I want to help preventing them from being infected,” said Ibu Teresia, after showing me some healthcare guidelines she always carries with her during home visits.
In Kupang district today more than 1,000 people are HIV-positive (based on the data from healthcare facilities). UNICEF and the local government are working hand in hand to make sure that the healthcare system can reach all pregnant mothers and prevent more children from being infected – because no child should be born with preventable diseases. The prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme is expected to support the work of AIDS volunteers like Ibu Teresia.
As a volunteer, one of Ibu Teresia’s crucial role is to make sure every pregnant mother she assists regularly takes their treatment. “I really hope there will be no other babies born with the virus,” she said.
ARV (Antiretroviral) drugs are prescribed to every pregnant mother with HIV to reduce the viral load as much as possible and therefore lower the mother-to-child transmission risk. However, regular blood and HIV tests are required for a child born from an HIV-positive mother – since birth up until the child is 18 years old – to make sure there is zero transmission.
As I reflected on Ibu Teresia’s dedication to others, a childhood song came to mind which is “Kasih Ibu” Song. It tells about mother’s love is infinity, everlasting and expecting nothing in return.
More than being Alinea’s adoptive mother, Ibu Teresia is a light that will always brighten Alinea’s, her five children as well as other kids in Kupang she intends to save.
*All of the names in this article have been altered to respect the rights of children.