News

    AIDS-Stricken Mother Wages War Against HIV

    Catherine Wyatt-Morley provides services to people impacted by HIV/AIDS

    After testing positive for HIV, Catherine Wyatt-Morley established an organization which provides HIV testing, counseling, support and nutrition services for people infected with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS.
    After testing positive for HIV, Catherine Wyatt-Morley established an organization which provides HIV testing, counseling, support and nutrition services for people infected with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Faiza Elmasry

    When Catherine Wyatt-Morley tested positive for HIV, she was told she had six years to live.

    Nearly two decades later, the mother of three is still alive, still fighting AIDS and finding strength in helping other women like her.

    Shock of her life

    Wyatt-Morley had a good life - a happy marriage, three lovely children and a good job. Then, in 1994, at a follow-up visit after surgery, her doctor told her she was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

    “I could not believe that that is what he said to me. I was married for over 10 years. I had never had sex outside of marriage," she says. "I was completely faithful to my husband. I had never injected a drug. I had never gotten a blood transfusion or anything else. So I was devastated. After all these years, I have yet to find a word in the English language that supersedes the word devastation.”

    Wyatt-Morley learned she had contracted the virus from her husband. He was later diagnosed with AIDS and ultimately lost his battle with the disease. She was left alone to deal with  the new realities in her life.

    “We lost everything: kicked out of my home, lost my job. I was kicked out of my church. My family turned their backs," she remembers. "So what I had to do was begin to prioritize: who was going to take care of my children, how I was actually going to prepare to pay for my own burial, all of those kinds of things.”

    Journal of an HIV-positive mother

    At that point, she started to write letters to her children.

    “I thought I was going to die and leave my children motherless and wanted my children to understand exactly who I was,” she says.

    Out of those letters came a book: "AIDS Memoir: Journal of an HIV-Positive Mother."

    Half a world away, in Kenya, Pierina Guantai, another HIV positive mother, picked up the book.

    “The book was very inspiring to me because I was going through a very difficult moment,” Guantai says. “I’m reading her book and seeing my life reflected in that situation. The book really encouraged me. And Catherine has helped me grow, made me strong, made me feel worthy.”

    That sort of feedback inspired Wyatt-Morley to do even more.

    War on HIV/AIDS

    “Out of my anguish, out of my misery, I gave birth to an organization that started in 1994 in the bedroom of my home,” she says.

    The organization, Women on Maintaining Education and Nutrition - the acronym spells WOMEN - provides HIV testing, counseling, support and nutrition services for people infected with, affected by or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

    “We have a staff of 13," Wyatt-Morley says. "We’re the only organization in the state in which the programs are administered by an African-American woman living with AIDS, so I know very clearly the plight of the individuals we work with and work for.”

    Wyatt-Morley has traveled around the world to speak about her experiences. She went to Africa to see the impact of AIDS first hand. She visited monks in Thailand to learn about their holistic approach to AIDS care.

    She has become the voice of the voiceless. And always- she offers inspiration for other women living with HIV, like Pierina Guantai, who started her own organization in Nairobi with help from Wyatt-Morley’s group.

    Spreading the word

    “I go speak with the people living with HIV, encouraging and giving support to families and individuals infected or affected by HIV and AIDS,” Guantai says.

    Her main focus is middle class women and children.

    “The government in Kenya has developed programs with the support of the international community. The stigma among the middle class is still high, which is preventing people from reaching out for services. Poor people are more willing, more receptive to services than the middle class. The other challenge I think is handling children who have HIV themselves and the orphans left behind when parents die.”

    Though they have never met in person, Guantai credits Catherine Wyatt-Morley for the success her group has achieved so far.

    Wyatt-Morley believes solidarity among women with HIV/AIDS is essential in their fight against the disease.

    “Though we’re located in the south of the United States, we really would like for women around the world to know that they have a sister in the fight," she says. "If they need to communicate, please reach out, we’re here to support in any way we can.”

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Josephine Wambui
    March 15, 2012 4:02 AM
    This is the word of hope that families need. that there is care around and one doesn't have to hide and wallow in devastation. I salute your courage Catherine and Pierina.

    by: Elliott Robinson
    March 07, 2012 11:50 AM
    Great story, about a great lady! I live in Nashville, and I have seen first hand how powerful WOMEN's work is. They are a very valuable asset to our community; we'd be in a mighty bad way without people like Catherine doing the things they do to help people infected with, and affected by, the virus.

    by: Pierina Guantai
    March 06, 2012 1:34 AM
    They are equally deserving. WOMEN recognises their role in supporting all helping process and can not be over-emphasize the need to have men on board. I hope VoA will run more stories....

    by: Pierina Guantai
    March 05, 2012 11:59 PM
    They are equally deserving. WOMEN recognises their role in supporting all helping process and can not be over-emphasize the need to have men on board. I hope VoA will run more stories....

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora