While tremendous progress has been made over the last decade to eliminate paediatric AIDS, more than 400 babies are still infected with HIV globally each day. About 75% of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, and most acquire HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
It’s unacceptable… it’s tragic… because it’s almost entirely preventable.
Effective and inexpensive medical interventions are available that can keep mothers and babies healthy. Without these interventions, up to 40% of infants born to HIV-positive mothers will contract the virus. With treatment, that number can be reduced to 2%.
However, most health centres in sub-Saharan Africa are severely understaffed which leaves doctors and nurses with only minutes to give a pregnant woman her HIV diagnosis and explain all of the drugs and tests she must adhere to in order to keep herself healthy and protect her baby from HIV. The stigma of HIV that is prevalent in many African communities causes women to live in fear, making it difficult for them to get the care they need.
What We Do and Why
mothers2mothers (m2m) is changing that. We train, employ, and empower local mothers living with HIV, called Mentor Mothers, as frontline healthcare workers in understaffed health centres and within communities. In one-on-one and group sessions, Mentor Mothers provide essential health education and support to women on how they can protect their babies from HIV infection, and keep themselves and their families healthy. Mentor Mothers’ intimate understanding of the social and cultural challenges of living with HIV gives them a unique ability to form trusted relationships with other women, vital to helping them overcome their fears and make lifesaving decisions.
m2m’s scalable, high-impact peer approach has been proven by independent researchers to:
- Reduce number of infants infected with HIV
- Improve the health outcomes of mothers and infants
- Save money that would have been spent on treatment
In fact, m2m’s 2014 evaluation shows that our programmes has virtually eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV. And an external evaluation of m2m Uganda found that for every $1 spent on the mothers2mothers programme, $11.40 is saved in averted HIV treatment costs. And if m2m’s programme were adopted nationally, Uganda could save an estimated $51 million in treatment costs over the lifetime of infants born HIV negative instead of HIV positive.
m2m’s programme also has a positive impact on the Mentor Mothers themselves. The employment enables Mentor Mothers to gain financial security for themselves and their families. By virtue of being professionalised, Mentor Mothers become role models in health centres and their communities, putting a face to empowered, strong, and healthy HIV-positive women, and thereby reducing HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
m2m and its Mentor Mother Model advances 6 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that most directly affect women and children’s health, development, and economic security. m2m also contributes to UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets to ensure people are tested, people testing positive for HIV receive treatment, and people placed on treatment get the best outcomes.