By Tom Midlane @GoldenLatrine

INFORMED she was HIV positive aged 11, Paida Mutopo believed she would never be able to have children for fear of passing on the condition

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Videographer / director: Dave Hare
Producer: Tom Midlane, Ellie Winstanley
Editor: Marcus Cooper

Paida Mutopo was told she had HIV when she was 11

But despite carrying the potentially fatal virus, Paida, now 20, from Rochdale in Manchester, gave birth to her son Kai five months ago.

Tests have confirmed that Kai is HIV free and the proud mother is now out to teach the world that HIV is no longer a death sentence - or even a barrier to becoming a parent.

She said: “When I found out I was pregnant I was so scared and at the same time I was so excited.

“When I found out I was HIV positive, I never thought I was going to have a child and that was something I wanted in my life."

HIV didn't stop Paida from having children

Although Kai has been given a clean bill of health, Paida admits that she would have struggled if she had passed on the virus to her firstborn.

She said: “I got his results through a nurse that I’m really close to and she told me, ‘he’s tested negative, you should get your results in the post,’ but I still couldn’t believe it.

“Once I received the letter confirming it, I was so happy.

If he had been positive I would have felt so bad, I would have just blamed myself, like ‘What have I done? Why have I put him through what I’ve gone through?’

"I don’t think I would have been able to live with myself if I had found out he was HIV positive.”

She gave birth five months ago to her first child

Advances in HIV medication mean that Paida only has to take three tablets a day.

Indeed, her current treatment plan is so effective that her “viral payload” - the amount of the virus in her system - is undetectable and she was able to take top-up drugs to minimise the risk of passing on HIV to baby Kai.

However Paida has chosen not to breastfeed as there is a small risk of breast milk being contaminated with the virus.

She said: "I decided to bottle feed rather than breastfeed, as there is a tiny but real chance of passing on the virus through breast milk, but I’m also a student at the moment so breastfeeding would be a challenge with my schedule anyway."

Doctors believe Paida contracted the condition from her mother Mavis - who had no idea she had the virus until her daughter was diagnosed.

Luckily her son, Kai, does not have the virus

“When Paida was diagnosed with HIV it came as a big surprise, but then I was diagnosed a week later,” Mavis said.

As well as having to deal with the shock of her own diagnosis, Mavis was overwhelmed with feelings of guilt.

She added: “It was a huge shock, especially since so many relatives had passed away from HIV in Zimbabwe.

“It was very difficult and I was constantly asking myself ‘What should I do? Should I kill myself and Paida?’

Doctors believe Paida's mother gave her the virus
Paida has chosen not to breastfeed her son

"I passed it on to my daughter, unknowingly, but that sense of guilt, it’s always in you - you know if she’s not well, you’re thinking 'it’s because of me'.

“My mum and dad came over from Zimbabwe because we thought we were losing her.”

Mavis says she was advised not to tell Paida straight away, waiting until she was 11 to break it to her.

Feeling frightened and isolated, Paida began misbehaving in class and quickly spiralled into depression and fell prey to bullying.

Paida said: "My life changed a lot, when I would get to school I could be walking in a corridor full of people and I would just hear someone shout ‘HIV’ or ‘Die’.

Paida's mother did not break the news to her at first, waiting until she was 11

"It was pretty hard because my age group didn’t understand it, and no-one wanted to be near me, they just seen me like I’m disgusting or something.

"Before that I used to share food and drinks with my friends, but after that, they would rather stay away from me."

Tired of living a secret life, Paida decided to ‘come out’ as HIV positive on social media at age 16.

She said: “I felt so relieved that I wasn’t hiding anything anymore. There was nothing for me to be paranoid about, I could just speak about HIV so openly, that people know about me without anyone saying ‘have you heard that girl, she’s got HIV."

Paida told everyone of her condition when she was 16 through social media

Paida has now set her sights on going to university to study social work to help build a right future for her and Kai.

She also uses public speaking engagements and does Q&As on social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat to challenge the stigmatisation of HIV patients, joining the likes of Prince Harry who in July took a HIV test to raise awareness about the condition.

She said: “I want to one day wake up and know there is no more stigma surrounding HIV and I was the cause of that, for the stigma to go, that is my dream so I hope one day I will achieve it."

Dr Katherine Ajdukiewicz, consultant in infectious diseases at North Manchester General Hospital, says the stigma attached to HIV is still one of the biggest issues preventing people from getting tested.

Paida now has plans to go to university and build the best future for her son

Dr Ajdukiewicz said: “I think the campaigning that Paida is doing is absolutely fantastic.

"The life expectancy of someone living with HIV Is now comparable with the rest of the population, which is certainly not what it was when I started working in this field.

"We’re living in the shadow of the 'don’t die of ignorance' era of the mid-eighties and we haven’t gone beyond that yet, so the more individuals like Paida can do to increase awareness the better."