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attack the virus in her own body and protect the life of her unborn
child, Brenda is taking AZT and 3TC, a frequently prescribed drug
combination for those in the early stages of HIV.
will remain on the drugs unless side effects develop or she develops
symptoms of AIDS or they no longer work. Since January, her T-cells
have shot up from 300 to 800, and the virus in her blood has dropped
from 12,000 to less than 200 [ck: what is the measure? 200 what?],
both encouraging signs.
she will be unable to breastfeed her baby because it increases the
risk of transmission by as much as 50 percent. At age 25, Brenda
must make many tough decisions at once. She must decide, for instance,
whether she should undergo a tubal ligation after the baby's birth.
The practical side of her pushes the surgery, the maternal side
pulls against. "You find out you're sick, you feel you have less
chances than everybody else," she says. "Here, I'm already thinking
I can't have any more babies because I'm going to die."
of the time her spirits are good. "She has a wonderful attitude,"
says Deborah Wafer, Brenda's nurse practitioner, an outgoing woman
in her 40s who works at UCLA's Maternal-Child Clinic. The clinic,
one of the few places in Southern California devoted to the medical
and social-service needs of HIV-positive women and their children,
is where Brenda and her baby will receive care.
she waits for the baby, she tries to think there's a reason for
what happened. "I have a goal now," she explains. "To take care
of me, to take care of my baby, to find out as much as I can about
the sickness I have and to teach people about it. Because I'm not
Wyatt is spearheading a landmark study by UCLA AIDS researchers
that will provide long-needed data on how women are grappling with
AIDS. Funded last year with a $4-million National Institute of Mental
Health grant, the Women and Family Project will follow the path
of HIV in both minority and nonminority women for two years. All
told, the study will examine the lives of 200 HIV-positive and 200
HIV-negative women. To date, more than 160 women, from throughout
Los Angeles, ranging in age from 18 to 62, have been enrolled.