Eleven-year-old Gugulethu* lives high in the mountains of rural Kwazulu-Natal – a region with the highest prevalence of HIV in a country with one of the highest rates of HIV globally. One day, while playing with her little brother on the rocky hills around her home she fell and hurt her knee. But this was no normal bruise. For weeks, her wound remained unhealed, until one day her mother decided to take her to the local clinic to tend to it. Once there, she and her mom learned why the wound had not yet healed. Young Gugu was living with a potentially deadly infectious disease. HIV, in fact. She had contracted it at birth during a time when treatment for mothers with HIV in South Africa was less accessible. But at the CDC-supported clinic, Gugulethu and her mom learned that there was hope. She was started immediately on HIV anti-retroviral treatment, and she was told that if she took them consistently and correctly, she could remain well and live a long and healthy life.
Today, Gugu is strong and full of energy. She still enjoys running up and down the hillsides in her neighborhood, watching over her little brother with a gentle protectiveness. Her laughter is infectious – like a child without a care in the world. “She was very afraid, when we first told her about the HIV,” says her mom. “We all were. But thanks to the treatment she received, today, she is healthy, she is alive – because of them!”