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A mom with HIV and a 'miracle' healthy birth
December 1st, 2010
03:31 PM ET

A mom with HIV and a 'miracle' healthy birth



Fortunata Kasege was just 22 years old when she arrived in this country 13 years ago from Tanzania.  A newlywed with a baby on the way.  She knew her life was about to change. What she didn't know was how much.  A visit to a prenatal clinic in Houston, Texas, revealed that she was HIV positive.

"I was horrified,” she remembers.  “I felt dizzy–and fell out of my chair.  And then I started to cry.  I thought about my unborn baby and I cried for her.  How would she survive?"

But it was 1997, and women in the United States had access to drugs that prevented mother-to-child transmission.  "The nurse told us treatment was available to keep us healthy, and that we could protect our unborn baby from contracting HIV," Kasege says.

That treatment saved Fortunata's life and the life of her unborn child.  "It was hard for me to believe such a miracle was possible,” she says.  “At that time in Africa, children who were born from mothers living with HIV became infected as well and died just a few years later."

Fortunata’s daughter Florida was born healthy—and HIV negative.  She says Florida would have been born HIV positive and she herself would have been dead years ago had they still been in Africa.  “There was not much access to treatment.  Being positive meant you were going to die. It was just a matter of time”

Today, between 215 and 370 newborns contract HIV each year in the U.S., the CDC says. It happens mainly through mother-to-child-transmission either during the pregnancy, through labor and delivery or from breastfeeding. Usually because the mother was not tested early enough in her pregnancy or didn't get preventive treatment at all.  And even though many pregnant women do get screened for HIV, some are tested too late in their pregnancy to take full advantage of prevention, said CDC spokesperson Nikki Mayes.

This year, as the 22nd  World AIDS Day is observed, two United Nations AIDS programs,   UNICEF and UNAIDS are calling for an end to all mother-to-child transmission by  2015.

“Around 370,000 children are born with HIV each year. Each one of these infections is preventable," said Michel Sidibe, executive director, UNAIDS. "We have got to stop mothers from dying and babies from becoming infected with HIV."

It's a goal some AIDS experts say is within reach.

"We have strong evidence that elimination of mother-to-child transmission is achievable," said Dr. Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization's director-general.

Jake Glaser of the  Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, whose mission is to prevent and eradicate pediatric AIDS globally, celebrates  recent progress. "10 years ago, we were reaching 15 percent of the women that needed medication in order to help stop the transmission of the virus to their child. Now we're reaching 45 percent. Isn't that amazing?" Glaser said.

Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health says the progress has been encouraging but it's going to take more than five years.

"In this country, such transmission is increasingly rare, and we can do even better with increased HIV testing and appropriate treatment and care of HIV-infected pregnant women," Fauci said. "Globally, the number of children newly infected with HIV fell by 24 percent over the past five years. We need to build on this progress.

"A complete elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission is unlikely by 2015," he said,  but with essential help offered to women with HIV and their babies he is "confident that the burden of HIV infection among children will continue to decline."

Today Kasege and her daughter are working to make that happen. As an ambassador for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, she and her daughter travel across the country sharing their story, being advocates for HIV/AIDS-related causes, and working to eliminate pediatric AIDS.

“I think it’s possible as long as the appropriate funding is allocated to the right places," Kasege said. "World leaders need to put that as a priority and put their money where their mouth is.  If it can work for me it can work for other moms. I was already five months pregnant and it worked. So it’s possible and five years is plenty.”


soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. JD

    Not a "miracle", it's called Modern Medicine!

    December 1, 2010 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sydley

      while we all recognize it was modern medicine that saved this woman and her child I bet it felt like a miracle to her since she was used to the inevitability of death by AIDS where she was from

      December 1, 2010 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
    • ***SD38

      Modern medicine is a miracle

      December 2, 2010 at 07:22 | Report abuse |
    • steph

      Hear, hear! I'm sick of imaginary sky beings getting credit for years of hard human effort and painstaking research.

      December 2, 2010 at 13:00 | Report abuse |
    • clone

      u funny u little be ach

      December 3, 2010 at 08:24 | Report abuse |
    • The nerdy nurse

      Modern medicine makes miracles possible.

      http://www.thenerdynurse.com

      December 5, 2010 at 03:49 | Report abuse |
    • Duy

      By miracle, I believe that she meant by amazement. Love and amazement. You (not you personally, but the world) don't have to bring religion into a convo when the word 'miracle' is mentioned. And yes, she realize that it is science and hard work that saved her.

      December 5, 2010 at 22:13 | Report abuse |
  2. T3chsupport

    Yeah, she did. Because America is a place with compassionate, caring people.
    Jerks like you don't actually reflect on the good of America. Your ilk gets ignored on good days.

    December 1, 2010 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ME

      Don't confuse compassion with blind foolishness. Sometimes "helping" people debilitates them to the point that they never learn to help themselves.

      December 1, 2010 at 23:46 | Report abuse |
  3. Lewis

    @notbuyingit What would you do; roll over and die? Do you know these people personally? Do you know their story? Get the facts and base your statement off of that. Until then, just stay quiet.

    And yes, modern medicine is to thank. :)

    December 1, 2010 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Riley

    Wow you are bitter. Now I do notsupport illegal immigration, but if they came here the correct way then it is ok by me.

    December 1, 2010 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. shibbygirl

    wouldn't you do the same?

    December 1, 2010 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. stejo

    this is a wonderful story, and you're a piece of work.

    December 1, 2010 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. realityofitall

    I think it's sad that the first response about an article that gives hope is hate, selfishness and foolishness. If you're not of Native ancestry you have no right to belittle those looking for life elsewhere, your ancestors are not different than this family. If you're wondering why the U.S. is going down the tubes and violence is everywhere look at yourself, you're promoting it; demanding others to see your life as more valuable than others. Foolish is what you are.

    December 1, 2010 at 16:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Kara from McCammon, Idaho

    Seriously are you saying because this beautiful girl was not concieved in the U.S. she deserved to die?

    December 1, 2010 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. notbuyingit

    The child had no choice in her situation, no I would not want her to die. I'm aware my comment may seem callous but when are we going to stop taking care of and involving ourselves in other countries when we can't or won't even take care of our own.
    How many American women and children or men for that matter have HIV and can't afford the cost of treatment. God forbid we have a National Health Care plan............

    December 1, 2010 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Riley

      ummm, we do have a national health care plan. I understand what you are saying. But again, if this family came here properly then you do not have a leg to stand on. As stated above, we all came here some why unless we are Native Americans. As long as it is legal, why should you care?

      December 1, 2010 at 17:00 | Report abuse |
    • SB

      Your ability to make assumptions about people you've only just read about in a short article is one of the reasons we Americans can't have productive conversations about immigration. Where does it say she and her husband were unemployed when the emigrated? Nowhere does it say they were illegal – therefore it is more logical to assume they had employment which they used to secure their visas. With employment comes insurance – and no burden to you, the American taxpayer. And now, like our immigrant ancestors before us, she is making her new home-country a better place by raising awareness of how ALL American babies can be born HIV-free with proper pre-natal testing and care. These are exactly the kind of immigrants we need to keep making our country stronger! I'm afraid that closed minds like yours are the reason people like Fortunata will start making other countries better places – because they will no longer want to come here.

      December 1, 2010 at 17:27 | Report abuse |
    • nelson

      well for you to say for the U.S. to stop taking care of people in other countries, its obvious you did not read the story. she came from Africa which means she moved to the U.S. That means that she is in the country and received the treatment.

      December 1, 2010 at 18:31 | Report abuse |
    • Kham

      If you haven't notices, the earth is round, and what goes around, comes around... environmentally and socially. The good or bad a country does will affect future generations no matter where they live on earth.

      December 2, 2010 at 07:13 | Report abuse |
    • Kham

      Why shouldn't the U.S help citizens of other countries they sent into economic oblivion by waging unjust wars? or profit by cheap labor?

      December 2, 2010 at 07:23 | Report abuse |
    • Kristin

      Oh, shut up notbuyingit. I can't wait until your self-centered ugly breed dies off.

      December 2, 2010 at 08:43 | Report abuse |
  10. gateway

    "I'm aware my comment may seem callous". Yet you posted anyway.
    How callous is that?

    December 1, 2010 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ME

      Sometimes the truth does seem callous to those who are ruled by hysteria and emotion instead of logic and reason. Whine whine whine.

      December 1, 2010 at 23:34 | Report abuse |
  11. Crime Professor

    Please research before you comment. Illegals (if you meant illegals, if not scroll on down to the immigrant note) have a largely difficult time obtaining any free health insurance. Have you tried to get free health care lately? It isn't easy for Americans! Second, most illegals do not even attempt to access health care for themselves, they are in fear of deportation. This myth of immigrants coming here to live high on the hog of the American taxpayers is a myth people, look up your basic peer-reviewed research and you will easily find the shared scientific consensus that these are not the people accessing state and federal health care plans for indigents. people who can afford to actually relocate here from other countries and do so legally are not the ones who are siphoning the health care.

    December 1, 2010 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Crime Professor

    Also, if it were so darn easy to go from anywhere in the world to here just to get access to health care for HIV treatment, wouldnt all HIV people be seeking the US? Duh, use your brain please.

    December 1, 2010 at 17:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. locdvegan

    she 'knew full well'? how did you come to that conclusion? b/c it didn't say so in the article...

    December 1, 2010 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Lori

    Have a heart.

    December 1, 2010 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Gyrlie

    notbuyingit – you might wanna stop posting

    December 1, 2010 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. jj

    once upon a time if you were unhealthy you could not immigrate into the USA. everyone is crying about health care costs, here is full disclosure. Want to be helpfull to everyone? There will be no room for the regular citizens. It does not say give me your SICK I feel for this person but can you or will you pay more to take care of the world full of this? how many HIV cases in Africa alone?

    December 1, 2010 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alyssa

      And yet I don't hear anyone complaining when a U.S. citizen buys discounted medicines from Canada or goes to Europe for a controversial operation. Don't be a hypocrite.

      December 1, 2010 at 20:14 | Report abuse |
    • ME

      Alyssa, you seem confused about the difference between buying and taking. If an American is buying discounted drugs from a pharmaceutical company, they are not robbing anyone. They are using their own funds to purchase a good that is offered for sale. If someone comes here for the sole purpose of getting free health care, they are taking away from someone else. I highly suspect this woman knew she had HIV when she came here pregnant and just happened to find out right away.

      December 1, 2010 at 23:38 | Report abuse |
  17. isa

    you are a jerk...and i hope i burn in HELL.

    December 1, 2010 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sydney Australia

      you are efing full of compassion aren't ya?
      Believe in allowing someone to express their opinion don't ya?
      Its the first of the month – go check your mail box for your food stamps.

      December 1, 2010 at 18:48 | Report abuse |
  18. HAHA

    hahahha notbuyingit, your sorry butt got owned big time !! Must feel pretty stupid huh?

    December 1, 2010 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Hope

    I had no clue that there were medicines to prevent the spread of HIV to an unborn child. It is a miracle what modern medicine can do. I knew what medicine can do to stop the fastness of AIDS. That girl was lucky that her mother came to America.

    December 1, 2010 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Mary J

    So I guess she deserves to die because she wasn't born here, eh? You do realize this is CNN and not the Faux News website, right? There are more of your type on the latter.

    December 1, 2010 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. MaybeBuyingIt

    I'm all for helping people but other countries need to follow our example and help themselves. If those countries were not so corrupt then people not leave in the first place. I don't like the fact that people come to the US and expect us to take care of and pamper them so they can get a free ride. The amount of help you get here should be the same you put back. If you don't give back, we take that kidney/liver/heart back.......call up Jude Law and he will repossess your gifts.

    December 1, 2010 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • realityofitall

      And your amount of give back has been what exactly?

      December 1, 2010 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
    • debbie

      It's not immigrants who will break our health care system but our own obese, diabetic, garbage-eating selves.Two-thirds of Americans are so fat they are walking time bombs of heart disease, and in another five years 45% of us will have diabetes. That's what's overwhelming our doctors and hospitals and making our insurance premiums skyrocket.

      December 1, 2010 at 18:10 | Report abuse |
    • concerned

      "I'm all for helping people but other countries need to follow our example and help themselves. "

      In reality, the Tanzanians are working to develop their economy. The government is working with the IMF to foster free trade and industrialization, but this process is anything but easy and will take time and aid from other countries. The most important part is that they are making progress. The Tanzanian current annual GDP growth is at 4.9% (that's better than ours, just so you know). I recommend you read up on the US Department of States' website before you criticize other countries.

      And if you actually believe that immigrants are getting a luxurious free ride? Maybe you should read up on that one too. This site is an excellent reality check: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/06/reality_check_immigration.html

      December 1, 2010 at 18:28 | Report abuse |
    • SB

      The number of bitter Americans making assumptions about this woman's life and then using them to justify their anger amazes and horrifies me. Where does it say anything about "pampering" and a "free ride"? Not once does it mention that she snuck into the country illegally – for all you know she and her husband came in with work visas, have jobs, pay taxes, are covered by insurance – you have NO information to say otherwise. And you want her to give back? Look what she and her daughter are doing with their lives now – working to raise awareness, teaching AMERICAN women the importance of early prenatal testing and care, supporting the goal of ensuring NO AMERICAN baby ever again contracts HIV from his or her mother. What more would you like them to do in repayment for the medical care they received here? Every one of us (except for a very small native minority) come from people who did just what this woman did – left their home country and came to America because there was something here we couldn't get at home. What have YOU done to pay back America for the opportunities it has given YOU in your lifetime?

      December 1, 2010 at 19:05 | Report abuse |
  22. Tamara

    You're calling somebody stupid when you have no command of the English language? I hope you weren't born here because you might want to go back to your own country and speak your native tongue and stop butchering English.

    December 1, 2010 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Natalie

    @Sad:
    Sit down before you hurt yourself. Thank you for Tamara calling out what an idiot you are. Putting aside that your english and spelling are terrible, I could at least respect you if you had something worthwhile to say and if it was meaningful. Instead you poison the world with your rambling incoherent thoughts. Thank god there are some people in the world who have a heart. I hope someday you do not come down with some chronic disease. Ever heard of Karma! I am glad these mother and daughter are turning a negative situation into a positive one.

    December 1, 2010 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. danie

    did you even read the article? the first paragraph says she found out she was HIV positive after arriving in texas.

    December 1, 2010 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. notbuyingit

    Re: Hope and JJ. Finally someone else on this board who has some common sense. I'm all for helping other people but there's a saying that goes" in order to help others you have to take care of yourself". America is in some really deep trouble right now economically and I don't see any other country running to rescue us.
    Re: Riley: No we do NOT have a National Health Care plan. Many people here are choosing to forgo cancer treatment and die just so they don't leave their families with mountains of debt once they are gone. Where is all the "caring and compassion" for them?.

    December 1, 2010 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Dylan

    You're just embarrassing yourself.

    December 1, 2010 at 18:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Eliseo

    Actually she didn't know she was HIV positive until she came to the US, please read the article before you post idiotic comments.

    December 1, 2010 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Sydney Australia

    This article opens up a lot of questions............
    What happens to all the funds we send overseas to combat aids? If the money is not being used to combat aids then we should stop sending the money because we can not afford to send the money to foreign countries AND provide free aids care here in America to those who are lucky enough to make it to our borders.
    Also, article does not mention how she and her unborn child entered America; nor does the article give a second thought to the childs father. Did he come to America also or did she just leave her country and him behind.

    December 1, 2010 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SB

      FYI – this woman is a very well-publicized activist these days, so spend some quality time with a search engine and you'll discover that she came here with her husband, who later left her when he discovered that he was not the source of her HIV. You will also find, after your search (should you choose to be informed rather than leap to assumptions based upon one short article) that there is no mention anywhere of her being on welfare, receiving "free" medical care, or in any other way burdening the American taxpayer with her health care costs. Americans are fond of defending our right to buy whatever medical care we want, and boasting that we have the best health care money can buy. If both are true – don't they hold true for anyone who can afford the care, so long as they don't break the law to do so? Given how publicly she lives her life (as an activist), you can bet that INS hasn't been looking for her to deport her...

      December 1, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse |
    • ME

      SB, the expenses to prolong the life of someone with HIV are extreme and far more than any normal person could ever afford. Even if she does have insurance, her illness that she brought into the US has cost someone (s,) most likely everyone else with that insurance company, millions of dollars. If she does not have insurance, she is costing every single tax payer in this country. So yes, she is definitely costing someone quite a bit of expense beyond what she will ever pay.

      December 1, 2010 at 23:41 | Report abuse |
  29. Sydney Australia

    Were any on you aware that U.S. aid to Africa nearly quadrupled from $1.2 billion in FY2006 to $6.7 billion in FY2010. Moreover, the United States is the leading donor of humanitarian assistance to Africa. Between FY1999 and FY2009, the United States provided over $10.1 billion to East and Central African countries and an estimated $2.2 billion to Southern Africa countries.
    This is Billions with a B. How much is enough? When do we deal with our HIV infected that are sleeping on the street?

    December 1, 2010 at 18:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. John Ts

    I have pity on you if a story about a child escaping an early death inspires more resentment than joy.

    December 1, 2010 at 18:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Sydney Australia

    ou are efing full of compassion aren't ya?
    Believe in allowing someone to express their opinion don't ya?
    Its the first of the month – go check your mail box for your food stamps.

    This message is directed at isa. CNN's forum reply button works about as good as their reporters.

    December 1, 2010 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. gale

    I am happy for this woman and her daughter. The people on here that seem to resent the fact that "their" tax dollars are helping someone besides a native born American need to sit back and chill out, just be thankful they don't need this medical intervention. I am all for legal immigration only, however, there are too many people on here who just take it for granted that this family didn't come here legally. Where did you read she was here illegally?

    December 1, 2010 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. athinkertwice

    In reading this story. I am happy for the mother and her daughter . She was correct in detailing, that initially, some twenty years ago,infected with the HIV virus HTLV3 virus coupled with the many opportunistic infections. death for many were imminent. Even in the united states....As a Pathologist Assistant in a prominent medical examiners office in Florida I autopsy over one hundreth thousand. Within five years. Thanks to the hard works of many people like myself modern medicine has come along way. I assisted in thousands of AIDS researches while working at several medical examiners offices in America. I remember collicting bone marrow,to try and culture the virus. To see how it is transmitted and how londg it lives,inside and outside the host. I remember swabbing the under arms of AIDS,full blown AIDS decedants.To see which bodily fluids houses the virus.All bodily fluids do. Now to imagine another human being living inside another human being. attached by a large blood vessel, can be immune to the virus and not get infected.....Is it a miracle assisted by medicine ......Is it a miracle on its own......Babies were borne uninfected to infected mothers long before the medicine. the medicine is a necessary precaution.....My concern here is that, the beautifull lady, and she sure is beautifull. Did not choose to tell about the man in this picture perfect story...How is he doing. who is helping him....Is he infected too......Oh! He probably is a black man. nobody gives a heck about him.....even if he is an autopsy assistant. Or the Presidant of the United states....He is just ablack man,just eliminate him.....I am compassionate. I would be more compassionate if the story we're more family oriented....Where is the father....sick of women and children white men only....stop the blackmale racism....we have all contributed in making America.America.

    December 1, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ME

      If you are going to pretend that you are a "Pathologist Assistant in a prominent medical examiners office," can you at least use the grammar and spelling of an educated elementary school student? No one is going to believe you have any kind of education or impressive job with grammar like that!

      December 1, 2010 at 23:44 | Report abuse |
    • Snow

      How do you explain teardrops, sweat, and saliva being fluids through which the virus is supposedly not transmitted?

      December 2, 2010 at 09:54 | Report abuse |
  34. Snow

    I think she probably didn't know she had HIV when she came, but even if someone does, I don't blame them for trying to get treatment and save their baby any way they can. We would all do the same. The fact is, these medications are not expensive in generic form. They should be available to everyone on the planet.

    December 2, 2010 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. razzlea

    Check out my health and fitness blog http://razzlea.blogspot.com/

    December 2, 2010 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Martin Ignacio

    This story proves once again all children who are unborn ...are human persons who deserve the best care and the respect of their lives...including medical attention. Let us pray for the end of the worst slavery in human history legalized abortion.

    December 2, 2010 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. clone

    hahahaha

    December 3, 2010 at 08:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. clone

    I say fuc the nun beliver

    December 3, 2010 at 08:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. clone

    dead serios

    December 3, 2010 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. clone

    what da he!!

    December 3, 2010 at 08:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. clone

    we have to many in the us why do we need you afrikans

    December 3, 2010 at 08:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. jessie

    HIV patients can live normally according to experts....http://factoidz.com/hiv-patients-can-live-normally-according-to-experts/

    December 6, 2010 at 03:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. sbwh

    Giant LOL. She's a legal resident of the U.S. just like notbuyingit. Perhaps we should deport notbuyingit for an HIV positive person with a brain.

    December 6, 2010 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
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