Durban Here We Come!

AIDS2016_logo_location_date_verticalmothers2mothers (m2m) is busy preparing for our biggest presence ever at the International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) – the largest gathering on any global health or development issue in the world – being held in Durban, South Africa, 18 – 23 July.

m2m will kick off AIDS 2016 on Monday, 18 July with a very busy first day…m2m President and CEO Frank Beadle de Palomo and m2m Trainer Babalwa Mbono, will participate in a panel hosted by The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Working Together to Crack the Code to Get Men Tested and Treated in Africa.

Later that same afternoon, m2m will host a lively intergenerational panel with Johnson & Johnson in honour of our decade of partnership. The session, Lives Changed on the Way to Zero: A candid conversation with Zolani, teens, and their HIV-positive mothers, will explore the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic among adolescents. Hosted by Zolani Mahola, lead singer of South Africa’s chart-topping pop group Freshlyground, the session will for the first time feature HIV-positive mothers with their HIV-free adolescent children, talking about the unique challenges that adolescents face navigating sexuality, stigma, and peer pressure to protect themselves from infection. Also participating will be m2m Peer Mentors, young women who are part of m2m’s new adolescent-focused initiative in South Africa.

The next day, m2m’s Sarah Chapman, will present an oral abstract at the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: The Path to eMTCT session. The research is based on the 2014 annual evaluation data, and demonstrates how women who have two or more contacts with a m2m Mentor Mother are significantly more likely to demonstrate positive health behaviours (such as breastfeeding and disclosure), as well as access treatment to protect their babies from HIV infection and keep themselves healthy. Final transmission rates at the 18-24 month test are also greatly improved.

In addition, m2m has been asked to participate in a session on innovative technologies, organised by the South African Dept of Health, Johnson & Johnson, and the World Health Organization. And to cap off this exciting week, m2m will be sharing our Early Childhood Development work on a panel organised by UNICEF and the Hilton Foundation.

Finally, if you are attending, please make sure to come by our two booths, one in the Global Village and the other in the conference itself, and peruse the four posters that will be on display. Staff and Mentor Mothers will be on hand to welcome visitors and engage them in some fun (and for now, secret!) activities.

The conference has special significance this year. The last and only time it was held on the African continent was 16 years ago in Durban, when the HIV/AIDS pandemic was at its peak in Africa and few people there had access to treatment. That conference helped catalyse the global community to make treatment more accessible in resource-poor countries, resulting in significant reductions in new infections and AIDS deaths in the years that have followed. But there are still many people who do not have access to lifesaving treatment, and the hope is that this conference will establish a clear path to make sure that no one is left behind in the AIDS response.

You can follow our activities at AIDS 2016 on our website, m2m.org, or on Facebook/Twitter, starting 17 July.