Malawi is one of the world’s least developed and most densely populated countries, with a population approaching 17 million. An estimated 9.1% of the country’s adults between the ages of 15 and 49 are living with HIV and, of those 890,000 people, more than 60% are women. Despite these challenges, the number of children infected with HIV has declined by 53% since 2009 and the number of women infected with HIV, aged 15-49, has declined by 32%.
|OVERVIEW: (As at November 2017)|
|Community Mentor Mother Coordinators||35|
|Mentor Mothers (in health centres and communities)||302|
|Adult HIV prevalence*||9.2%|
mothers2mothers’ (m2m) presence in Malawi has expanded over the last few years in response to the country’s implementation of Option B+ in 2011. Under Option B+, all HIV-positive pregnant and breastfeeding women are eligible to be put on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for life, regardless of their clinical stage. This innovative programme, which has since been adopted by numerous other countries, was designed to simplify prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, especially when the testing that measures the progression of the virus (CD4 test) is not widely available. Since Malawi adopted Option B+, the percentage of HIV-positive pregnant women receiving ARVs has increased from 20% in 2009 to 64% in 2014.**
The essential health education and support that m2m’s Mentor Mothers provide is critical to helping women cope with the shock and stress of learning that they are HIV positive and are being put on a lifelong ARV treatment after a single visit to the health facility. Mentor Mothers continue to provide support to the women in the years that follow in order to help them stay on treatment, minimise the risk of transmission, and make healthy choices for their families.
Other ways in which m2m is actively supporting Option B+ in Malawi include: placing Mentor Mothers within communities to follow up with women who have missed appointments or who have not visited a health centre and provide them with education in support to access care; enhancing the services that Mentor Mothers provide to include education, support, and referrals on TB, infant and maternal nutrition, cervical cancer, and malaria; and working with key stakeholders to chart a national action plan to sustain psychosocial services in support of the elimination mother-to-child transmission (eMTCT) of HIV.
“One time at my facility, a woman had planned to commit suicide if found HIV positive. After testing, she was sent to us. I gave her my personal story and she couldn’t believe how healthy I looked. She accepted her situation and has been coming to me to thank me with chickens, beans, and other gifts. Now she is shining and no one can really assume she is reactive.”
– Mentor Mother