While tremendous progress has been made over the last decade to eliminate paediatric AIDS, more than 200 babies are still infected with HIV each day in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of them 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 to:
- Reduce number of infants infected with HIV
- Improve the health outcomes of mothers and infants
In fact, m2m’s 2015 Annual Evaluation shows that our programme has virtually eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV for two years in a row, with an average transmission rate of 2.1%.
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.